Actions

Work Header

Rain Falls

Chapter Text

November 2011
London, England


It was a clear and brisk day, and Sören Sigurdsson was outside on his break. The twenty-six-year-old neurosurgeon was glad for a breath of fresh air, the coolness after the heat he always generated when operating, a chance to "dial back" from the surgery he'd just performed and take in the blue sky, the landscaping of the hospital grounds, though it was a bit less impressive in early winter. Here was a moment of peace, where he could just be before going inside for the last few hours of his shift. Nice and quiet. Blissful solitude -

"Sören Sigurdsson?"

It was an unfamiliar voice. Baritone register, Londoner if he had to place the accent - though he'd only been in the UK since the summer of 2010 and hadn't quite figured it all out yet, he was getting better at determining accents. Sören glanced over his shoulder, annoyed at being interrupted on his break by someone who didn't know him, even more annoyed that it was a suit. Although, the man in the charcoal grey suit was quite attractive - about two inches taller than Sören's six feet, broad-shouldered, trim, short dark hair, green eyes. On the pale side, clear-complexioned, clean-shaven. As pretty as he was handsome, with high cheekbones, a full, generous mouth, strong jawline, a bit of a smoulder to him. He looked thirtysomething at the oldest, probably not that much older than Sören.

"Jæja?" Sören tried not to glare, not wanting to come off as totally rude, but he couldn't keep the note of irritation out of his voice.

The man stepped forward. "I was told you'd be out here," he said, sounding somewhat apologetic, as if he knew Sören was on break and he was interrupting that precious time. He extended his hand - manicured, Rolex watch, long, elegant fingers... the kind of smooth, soft hands of someone who'd never done hard labor. Sören hated shaking hands with strangers, as a surgeon who had to wash his hands constantly, and also where if something happened to his hand, like a sprain or a break, that was very bad for his job. Not that handshakes tended to result in that, but Sören was paranoid, especially when he'd had to deal with hysterical family members of patients in the past. Nonetheless, Sören took the suit's hand. The man had a strong grip, both assuring and dominating.

"I'm Anthony Wyatt-Jones," the man said, giving a thin smile that did not meet his eyes. "Criminal defense barrister -"

Sören rolled his eyes and let out a deep sigh. "If you're here about Rafferty, I've already spoken to solicitors."

"Yes, Mr. Sigurdsson, I'm aware of that. I'm here to do a followup. I prefer to err on the side of being thorough, leaving none of the proverbial stones unturned. My colleagues may not appreciate that, but my clients do."

Sören pursed his lips. This was the last thing he wanted to do on his break; at least this Anthony Wyatt-Jones was easy on the eyes, and easy to listen to. Sören's eyes raked him up and down, taking him in. "Go on."

"I'd like to ask you some questions, and if possible, be taken on a tour of where Mr. Rafferty performed the operation he's being sued for. Have a glance at the lighting, equipment... that sort of thing."

Pete Rafferty had been suspended following a charge of criminal negligence - operating under the influence. The patient had died, which of course created a bit of a scandal for the hospital, and just the event of the death had been fairly traumatic for the entire staff, especially those who had witnessed it.

"We'll go on the tour first," Sören said.

"Thank you, Mr. Sigurdsson."

Sören narrowed his eyes. After living in the UK for over a year, he'd gotten used to the inevitability that he would be addressed by his last name, but it was properly a patronymic and not a surname - in Iceland everyone was on a first-name basis, no matter who they were, and it was seen as a bit of a faux pas to call someone by their last name. Sören was used to it now, but he still didn't like it, and being interrupted on his break increased the annoyance he'd otherwise feel.  And he really hated the British custom of specialists being called "Mister" instead of "Doctor". "I. AM. A. DOCTOR." he'd ranted privately to his cousin after he'd moved.  That was just the icing on the cake of his annoyance.

Anthony Wyatt-Jones was not kidding when he said he preferred to err on the side of being thorough, wanting a demonstration of the lights and all the equipment in the operating room, not currently in use. He took notes as Sören showed that everything was fully functional, and then Sören took him back outside, because he would be damned if he wasn't getting at least some fresh air. A little bit of wind was kicking up now, carrying the notes of Anthony's cologne, a cool, clean scent, rain or ocean notes, with a touch of warm musk underneath. It was likely expensive, and just enough to make a good impression without being overpowering. Sören liked it. Under other circumstances he would have asked what it was.

"The deceased had been to you for scans and advisement before the procedure. Were there any contraindicators for surgery? Any underlying health problems that would have made the surgery higher risk, a higher chance for dying under the knife?"

"No," Sören said.

More notes. "To my understanding, you reported Rafferty to your chief physician?"

Sören nodded. "We were doing two different procedures but we were scrubbing in at the same time and he seemed... off."

There was a pause, and then the next question. "What was your relationship like with Peter Rafferty?"

"Honestly? We weren't friends, we didn't like each other much."

This, of course, was exactly the sort of thing the shark was looking for, the "gotcha". Rafferty hadn't been blood tested before or after the procedure, so the intoxication couldn't be proven beyond doubt that way. All the prosecution had to work with was witnesses.

"Why was that?"

Sören wanted to say "none of your business", feeling uncomfortable discussing this sort of thing with a stranger, but he knew that if he withheld information that might actually do more harm than good, somehow. "I was at the Pride parade over the summer, marching with a few colleagues and other doctors from other branches of the NHS system. We had some photos taken of us, our names got on social media and in the newspapers. Rafferty of course couldn't say anything to my face without getting fired, but he, you know. Is a pretty outspoken Tory, telly would be on in the break room and he'd say stuff like 'what this country needs is a return to traditional values' and he'd glare at me. Passive-aggressive shite... er, stuff... like referring to me as 'you' and the other doctors by their names. A look on his face when he talked to me like he was smelling something foul or had just sucked on a lemon. Giving me a wider physical berth than he gave other people. Those little tells. All little things, but they added up. He didn't like me, I didn't like him, it was sort of a hostile work environment."

"And when you reported him... that was prior to his procedure?"

"Correct. He obviously was still allowed to perform, though my complaint may not have been noted until the operation was already underway. I really don't know."

"You said there was something 'off' about him. Off how?"

Sören closed his eyes for a moment, recalling what he'd seen in his mind's eye. He opened them to Anthony's watchful green eyes. "Unsteady gait, slightly slurred speech. He had beer breath. Not enough where you could smell him a kilometer away, but enough that up close..."

"And you're quite sure it was beer you smelled, not, for example, the breath of someone having a diabetic sugar episode or with another health condition."

"I'll never say I'm 100% sure on the 0.5% chance I might be wrong, but I've smelled glycemic imbalances before, dental conditions, other things... this wasn't that. Plus that combined with the way he was walking, talking..."

"So you've had experience observing people under the influence? Are you a bit of a drinker yourself, Mr. Sigurdsson?"

Sören normally wouldn't disclose something like this to a total stranger, but he bristled at the way that was worded, and reacted. "My guardians were alcoholics, I think I'm probably an expert on that subject."

Anthony's expression had been neutral thus far, but Sören noted a little frown and tightness around his eyes. There was a pause before he fired off his next question. "So you reporting him was strictly because of that, and not because his dislike of you being part of the LGBT community."

Sören nodded. "I would have reported him regardless of my personal feelings for him. Even if it was one of the surgeons I'm friendly with. If someone can do their job - and Rafferty was a damn fine surgeon up to this point - I don't care what their bloody politics are, I care that they can get shit done." Once again the swearing came out, and Sören felt a bit self-conscious, letting it slip in front of someone posh, cultured, but he wasn't here to impress the guy - handsome that he was - he was here to answer questions. "And if someone can't do their job because they're too fucked up on alcohol or drugs or they haven't gotten enough sleep or what have you, I don't care about their personal relationship to me, I care about the safety of that patient. I don't want blood on my hands because I'd rather score popularity points than listen to my conscience."

"Thank you for your honesty, Mr. Sigurdsson. And for your conscience."

Sören glared. "You thank me for my conscience, but you're defending this guy?"

Anthony's expression was no longer neutral. His nostrils flared slightly. He squared his shoulders. "It's my job," he said, his irritation cold rather than hot, lowering his voice instead of raising it. "We don't get to pick and choose our clients, no more than you get to pick or choose your patients. And in this country, people get a fair trial. Most people with a conscience would prefer it be so, even at the distaste of defending the indefensible, rather than someone being thrown in prison without a chance to prove one's innocence. In countries where that's done, it goes hand in hand with other human rights violations. I will defend ninety-nine guilty people to make sure one innocent isn't wrongly imprisoned. I will defend ninety-nine monsters to ask for leniency for one who chose the wrong path because they didn't have better choices."

That sounds personal. Sören decided not to pry. "Fair enough," he said. "I can respect that. Are you done with your questions, Mr. Wyatt-Jones?"

"Är du från Sverige? Jag tog några års ledighet från skolan till turné Västeuropa och Skandinavien var min favoritdel av turnén."

Sören was caught off guard, and strangely charmed by this question. Though the question had been in Swedish, he replied in Danish, his third language - he didn't speak Swedish, though Danish and Swedish were for the most part mutually intelligible. "Jeg er fra Island. Født i Akureyri, var kirurg på hospitalet i Reykjavik, før jeg kom hit for et år siden."

Anthony nodded slowly, taking it in. "Icelandic. I did think that was strange for a Swedish accent." He quickly added, "Not that your accent is strange. I quite like it."

"I've gotten that a lot." Sören's weight shifted from one foot to the other. "So anything else? Am I dismissed?"

"There is one more thing." Their eyes met. "Would you like to go out for dinner sometime? I know you've got rotating shifts, so the word 'dinner' is flexible - when we've mutually got some time off."

Sören cocked his head to one side. He was taken aback. "You mean... like, a date?"

"Yes. I'm gay."

It came out before Sören could stop himself. "Hi Gay, I'm Sören."

Anthony laughed - a genuine laugh, which made Sören smile. Which in turn produced a genuine smile from Anthony, smiling with his eyes, not the fake disarming smile of earlier. It was warm. Dazzling.

"Shit, you probably regret asking now," Sören said.

"No. I don't." The smile was softer, but still genuine. "If anything, I'm even more convinced asking you was the right decision. I needed that."

Sören smirked. "Hi Even More Convinced -"

Anthony raised an eyebrow. "Don't push it."

"Oh, but pushing it is fun. I push it real good."

Anthony caught the innuendo and turned a little pink, giving a guilty grin that all but shouted Mind, gutter. Sören's cheeks flushed too - he was surprised by the return of the devil-may-care attitude, the glimpse of the old him that he'd thought long since gone. And Sören felt a little flutter. He hadn't dated anyone since he'd moved to London - not only did he have a busy schedule, but the set of experiences that had prompted his exodus from his home country had put him off to bars, the club scene, and online dating services. He was wary. But he couldn't deny he missed companionship, he missed touch, he missed sex. And with dating another professional, Anthony would likely "get it" with being busy, and time being precious, so at least they had that going for them.

"So is that a yes, then?" Anthony looked a little hopeful.

Sören did some mental calculations. "It's Thursday the seventeenth... as things go, I actually have this Saturday night free, the nineteenth, and most of Sunday the twentieth. I'll have to be back at work in the evening, but I can either do Saturday night or Sunday brunch if -"

"Saturday night? Is 7 OK?"

Sören nodded. "Seven is good. You have anywhere in mind? I'm still getting a feel for London and what's good -"

"What part of London are you in? I don't want you to have to travel too far."

"Bromley."

Anthony thought for a moment, and suggested a restaurant. Upmarket, fusion cuisine. "We can go elsewhere if you've got any dietary restrictions..."

"I don't, so we can go there. Should I meet you there?"

"I don't mind picking you up, but if you'd rather meet me there that works. I'd like to pay for you, though, I'm a bit old-fashioned that way."

"OK." Sören smiled again. "Well, that made up for you intruding on my break."

Anthony gave a nervous chuckle. "This made up for me having to come out here to bother you."

They exchanged cell numbers, and then Anthony was on his way with a smile and a wave. Sören had a little spring in his step when he went back inside the hospital and he got through the last few hours of his shift without feeling ready to fall over. On the Tube ride back home, Sören was actually singing.

Chapter Text

Sören opted to walk from his flat over to the fusion restaurant where he'd be meeting his date, for once grateful for a walk and the chance to burn off his nervous energy so he wouldn't hem and haw over his outfit for the fiftieth time. When not in his medical scrubs, Sören was a T-shirt and jeans guy, but the restaurant was a little too upmarket to get away with dressing down completely - at the same time a suit and tie would have been too dressy, which Sören was grateful for. He certainly appreciated the way a suit looked on Anthony, but Sören loathed wearing suits himself. Sören's idea of dressing up was leather pants and some sort of flamboyant top, an outfit that was more Adam Ant or Jack Sparrow than GQ. After going back and forth between five different tops he'd chosen a black ruffly poet's shirt to go with his leather pants. He had his nape-length dark curls loose rather than in the man bun he kept them in at the hospital, and he took out the studs he wore in his ears when at work - not allowed more than stud earrings per NHS regulations - and replaced them with small silver hoops. It wasn't quite raining outside, but it was foggy and damp enough for Sören to forego the mascara and eyeliner. With the walk, Sören opted for his lighter leather jacket rather than the full-length leather duster, not wanting to be too warm.

He also wondered how the clean-cut lawyer would react to seeing him like this. But Sören figured that Anthony already got a look at him, bearded, seeing his hair was long enough to be worn up, pierced ears visible; he wore long-sleeved scrubs to cover the sleeve tattoos on his arms but he was sure the ink on his wrists had shown at least once when he'd moved around. So Anthony couldn't be too surprised if Sören walked in looking a bit more untamed. Sometimes posh liked a bit of rough, and Sören could go for a dapper gentleman when he wasn't going for longhaired rocker types like himself.

Sören couldn't remember the last time he'd been this nervous on a date. Some of the anxiety, of course, was the new normal that had crept up around the idea of dating in general since The Incident in early 2010, the one that gave him a strong shove out of Iceland. Sören felt wary around anyone and everyone - "Schrodinger's Rapist", he'd said to his cousin some months after the fact. But most of the anxiety wasn't apprehension of allowing himself to relax around a near-stranger. It was the funny little flutter he got in his stomach when he thought of Anthony, like his brain had decided to compensate for not having a crush on anyone in two years by really having a crush on someone. The way Anthony had met his challenge on Thursday had earned his respect, feeling the strength and solidity behind his words. He was articulate, intelligent. That, even moreso than Anthony's good looks, was compelling.

Sören's heart was pounding when he got to the restaurant, and not from the walk. He took a few deep breaths as he walked in. "You got this," he said under his breath.

Out of the glass foyer, the maître d' waited, giving Sören a glance as Sören stepped past the people seated on leather benches, waiting for a table to open. "Hi, I'm with Wyatt-Jones, party of two," Sören said.

The maître d' nodded and gestured. "Right this way."

Sören walked through a maze of stained glass and gold and silver lighting, to a wood-and-leather booth where Anthony Wyatt-Jones was looking at his cell phone. He immediately put it away and sat up straighter, his face lighting up at the sight of Sören. Heat flooded Sören's face, giving back a shy smile as he pulled up a chair.

"Sören, hi." Their eyes met. Anthony gave him the onceover before he sat. "You look... wow."

Sören took off his leather jacket and sat. "Wow good, or wow bad?"

"Wow good. Wow very, very good." Anthony poured him a glass of iced water and passed it over.

"You look nice too." Sören had noticed Anthony's outfit - grey blazer, black jeans, pointy black boots.

"Thank you." Anthony passed him a menu. "I hope you're hungry."

"Starving." Sören realized there was innuendo in there somewhere, confirmed at the wicked look in Anthony's eye as he opened the menu and glanced inside, and then kept glancing at Sören across the table. Sören had wondered, before he left the house, if he was getting laid tonight or if this was a "test the waters" date before more. Now, judging from the way Anthony kept looking at him, Sören thought to himself, I am definitely getting laid tonight. Already, his cock stirred.

Sören went with bruschetta tandoori chicken, and Anthony had the pad thai quinoa bowl. They split a hummus appetizer, and after their menus were collected, Sören felt the anxiety settle in again. This time it was his shyness, intensified by the feeling of being under a microscope, that Anthony was going to be as meticulous in inspecting him as a potential partner as he was in his court cases.

Anthony also seemed to be waiting for Sören to make the first move with conversation - which Sören supposed was natural since Anthony was a defense attorney. Even here he was defending, reacting rather than acting. Sören got the sense that Anthony would take the initiative later... but only just so.

Sören adjusted himself in his chair. "So... how was your week?" Sören raised an eyebrow. "Can you talk about the Rafferty case?"

"I cannot," Anthony said, "but the sooner this bloody case is over and done with, the better. Rafferty is insufferable, and now that I know he's also a homophobe..." Anthony made a face before sipping his water. "We don't pick our clients. I wouldn't have picked this one."

"Does he know you're gay?" Sören raised an eyebrow.

Anthony shook his head. "I'm out on a need-to-know basis. I don't hide it, but I don't proclaim it to the world, either. If it's relevant to bring up, then it comes up. If not... then no."

"Makes sense." Sören sipped his water. "Do your folks know?"

"Yes. I didn't come out to them until my twenties were almost over, but my mum, bless her, already figured it out much earlier than that. My parents are more or less fine with it."

"More or less?" Sören's lips quirked.

"I think it makes my father slightly uneasy. He's never given me a hard time about it - I don't feel like I can't bring a serious partner around them. He's just. Typical straight male about that sort of thing."

"You have brothers or sisters?"

"No." Anthony frowned slightly. "Always wish I did, but... no. Only child." His eyebrows raised slightly. "You?"

"I have a fraternal twin brother who's an astrophysicist -"

"So brains run in your family, then."

"My brother would beg to differ where I'm concerned." Sören gave a self-deprecating chuckle. "I could say the same about him on occasion. Brothers, man."

"Anyone else?"

"Já. I was raised by my aunt and uncle and their son grew up with us like a brother, he's a personal trainer back in Iceland." Sören gave a small, reluctant sigh. This was part of why he was shy about socializing much. "And I have an older sister. Well, had. She was murdered."

"Oh no." Anthony's face fell. "I'm sorry. I can see now why you seemed rather irritated with my profession -"

Sören waved his hand. "I know. You're fine, though. Let's... ah. Change of subject. You mentioned coming out when your twenties were almost over - how old are you?"

"Thirty-one. I'll be thirty-two in February. You?"

"Twenty-six." Sören nodded. "I'll be twenty-seven on Friday."

"I hope you're getting some time off on your birthday!"

"Jæja, I requested that entire weekend off. I don't normally take off an entire block like that. Some people buy themselves birthday gifts, I gave myself the gift of time."

"Do you have plans?"

"Sleep?" Sören gave a guilty grin. "I hadn't really thought that far ahead, honestly."

Anthony seemed to chew on that, as if he was considering making plans with Sören, but wanted to see how the rest of the evening went. Sören could understand that.

Their appetizer came, and there was a few moments of silence as they nibbled and waited for the next move. This time Anthony made it. "I take it you're out to your family."

Sören nodded. "I came out when I was seventeen. My aunt and uncle... did not take it well."

"The alcoholics."

Sören sighed again. "You remembered that."

"I remember things," Anthony said mildly. "So much of my job is that - listening, observing. Paying attention."

Sören didn't know how to respond to that. He felt vaguely exposed, like a vulnerability of his was being probed. But not in an exploitative, take-advantage type way. Anthony's eyes were kind, and one of Anthony's hands was close to his now, fingertips touching.

"The rest of my family knows. My brother and cousin are both bi like I am, so it's no big deal."

"Ah," Anthony said. "So you're bisexual... not strictly gay."

"Is that a dealbreaker?" Sören's stomach froze. It had been with some.

"No."

"Good," Sören said, before he could stop himself.

Anthony smiled. "It does make me wonder what your dating history has been like, though."

"Mostly nonexistent." Sören gave another self-deprecating chuckle. "I've never had a serious relationship. Not that I'm opposed to one, with the right person, but." Sören shrugged. "I was more into hookups when I lived in Iceland - men much moreso than women, if that's what you're asking about - but that hasn't been a thing since I left. I'm busy and I'm picky."

"Well, if you're picky, I'm flattered that you agreed to go on a date with me. To be honest, I wasn't sure that you'd say yes."

Sören's eyebrow went up at that. He cocked his head to one side. "You sure didn't act like you lacked confidence."

"Of course not. Attorneys learn early on that you never show doubt, once you've shown that it's all over. But underneath that calm, polished exterior, I felt ready to scream. I think I hyperventilated for a good five minutes after I got in my car after our encounter on Thursday."

Sören grinned. "I'm curious why you even asked, if you thought I might say no."

"A risk of you saying no doesn't mean that you automatically would. It was worth the chance." Anthony's eyes raked him over again. "You're nice to look at, and you intrigued me."

"Intrigued." Sören leaned back in his chair and sipped his water. "Now there's an interesting reaction."

"Mmm."

"So, what was it about me that intrigued you, Mr. Wyatt-Jones?"

"Honestly? The fact that you weren't instantly impressed by me being a barrister, unlike much of the populace. You looked at me like I was a piece of human shit when I told you I defend criminals for a living. I felt like I was on trial, for a change, having to justify my profession to you. There was a real audacity there which I'm not used to. I wanted to be offended, and act like your opinion didn't matter - I came very close to meeting your challenge with 'I don't owe you an explanation'. But I did anyway. Because you have heart, that shows itself in your choice of profession, your choice to continue working for the NHS rather than the private sector, that shows itself in you reporting Rafferty, that shows itself in you being willing to be out and proud in a world that isn't always so accepting. And that heart, combined with your being a neurosurgeon which requires a certain degree of intelligence and competency... and a dash of that charming accent of yours, and my fondness for Scandinavian men... well... I wanted to see more."

Sören smiled, genuinely touched - and a little turned on.

"Now I'm curious why you said yes," Anthony said. "Since you just admitted you're picky."

"Well, you're gorgeous and I haven't been laid in awhile." Those words came out before Sören could stop himself, and Anthony turned pink, not able to restrain a grin. Sören grinned too. "But it's not all physical for me. I've gone this long without and I'd just, you know, keep using my hand. Er, sorry."

"It's fine. We're both grown men..." Anthony's blush deepened. "Who do what grown men do."

Sören snickered. The thought of Anthony relieving himself sent a surge of heat through him, and his breath hitched. Then he went on. "The answer you gave to my challenge impressed me. It showed conviction. It showed purpose. Not too many people have that nowadays. And when you asked me a question in Swedish, even though I'm not, you guessed -"

"It was the name."

Sören nodded. "It's less common in Iceland than it is in Sweden. It used to be more common - I was named for my great-grandfather! Anyway... you guessed and you were trying to be respectful, and... I don't know." Sören shrugged. "It just felt right, to say yes and see where this goes."

"It felt right to ask and see where this goes."

Their eyes met, and held.

Their respective meals came and there was more silence - and more stolen glances - as they ate. Finally Anthony said, "I'm glad my response to your challenge was satisfactory."

"Mostly."

Anthony paused and gave Sören a quizzical look. "Mostly."

Sören nodded. "It actually raised more questions for me. Like how you even got into law in the first place. In that branch of law."

Anthony sat back in his chair. He looked at Sören again, had water, and Sören could see him collecting his thoughts, carefully formulating a response. Sören ate as he waited.

"My uncle was like a second father to me," Anthony said a few moments later. "Perhaps more of a father than my actual father, who's... emotionally distant. My father's family has tended towards at least one male in the service per generation, for some time now, and for that generation it was my uncle... and it was also why that tradition hasn't carried on with me. He was in the Gulf, in the 1990s. He came back... a bit damaged."

"When you say a bit damaged..."

"Post-traumatic stress disorder that had a tendency to get violent if he was actively having a flashback. In one of his episodes, he ended up seriously injuring someone without meaning to. And there was quite a bit less understanding of mental health disorders and the impact war has on veterans, back in the 1990s, than there is now. Even now, it's far from adequate."

Sören nodded solemnly.

Anthony went on, "The health system failed him... and the criminal justice system could have failed him, but he was fortunate enough to be represented by a compassionate barrister, which is why my uncle had some more years as a part of my life, until he eventually took his own life."

"I'm sorry."

Anthony nodded. Now it wasn't just their fingertips touching across the table again, but Anthony put his hand on top of Sören's. Just that alone sent a frisson down Sören's spine, and he wondered what it would be like to have that hand touch him elsewhere later. He felt somewhat guilty for his mind going right there after Anthony's own display of vulnerability, but...

"You get what it is to lose someone you love. I'm not glad it's a pain you've also endured but, it's something we both understand." Their eyes met and Anthony sipped water, frowning.

"I do."

"And that's the long and short of it, why I chose to specialize in criminal justice. For all of the rapists and thugs and murderers that I have to defend, there are, occasionally, people like my uncle. People like the clients I've had, plural, who've sold their bodies to feed their children. People like the clients who've fought back against abusive partners and they're the ones who end up in trouble rather than their abusers. I could go on and on, but you get the point. My job is thankless, apart from the veneer of prestige and the things it can buy me. Some days I question my sanity."

Sören let that sink in. Anthony had already earned his respect on Thursday, but this was a new level of respect. Sören raised his glass in salute. "That was really touching. It... restores my faith in humanity, a little."

"You know..." Anthony's eyes raked Sören again. "In the last few years I've been practicing law, you are the first person I've dated who's asked me why I got into criminal defense."

"Really." Sören could feel the confusion showing on his face. "Why wouldn't someone want to ask about that?"

"Because they'd rather talk about the money. I'm including fellow professionals in this. Doctors, lawyers. People in it for the money. I like the money, I wouldn't put up with this soul-sucking line of work this long if I didn't, but it gets... wearing."

"That's so weird." Sören blinked slowly.

"The fact that you think this is weird tells me rather a lot about you, Sören."

Sören felt disarmed again, but from the way Anthony was looking at him he could tell that statement was intended to be positive.

"And now I have to ask... how did you get into medicine? And neurosurgery in particular?" Anthony gave Sören a long look.

Sören took a deep breath. He hadn't wanted to get this personal on a first date, but since Anthony had lowered his guard a bit...

"When I was almost six, my mamma died from what I now know is a brain aneurysm. I was the one who found her body and had to call the paramedics."

"Jesus." Anthony winced like he was in pain.

"I'm sorry," Sören immediately blurted out. "I know that's dark. I already started this date down the path of darkness bringing up my sister -"

Anthony held up his hand for Sören to be silent. "Don't apologize. Please, continue."

Sören nodded. "So. You know. I felt so powerless. Blaming myself, wishing I was a grownup and was a doctor, could have done something to save her life. And it was one of the most defining moments of my life, if not the defining moment. Of course I realized many years later that it probably wouldn't have done me any good if I'd been a grownup and a doctor. She just lay down with a headache, took a nap, and died. Nothing could have been done, probably. But I decided then, at age six, that I was going to become a doctor. And of course when I got old enough and started med school I wanted to be a brain doctor. So..." Sören nodded some more. "Family tragedy put us both on our respective paths."

"Kindred spirits, in a sense." Anthony flagged the waiter. "Check, please."

"I'm sorry again for -"

Anthony gave him a look. "Sören, stop. You're fine," he said softly, and there was that hand on his again, this time rubbing, patting.

Sören swallowed hard.

Anthony finished his meal, and his water, and the check came. He looked at it and produced his wallet.

"Are you quite sure you don't want me to pay my half?" Sören asked.

Anthony nodded. "I told you, I'm old-fashioned in that regard." After selecting a card and pushing the check with the card off to the side of the table, he leaned closer to Sören. "The night is still young."

"It is."

"Would you like to come back to my place and watch something, maybe?"

"Something." Sören fought back a giggle as his mind went in the gutter. Then he said, "OK."

"How did you get here?"

"I walked. It wasn't too far, I needed the air."

"All right. I'll drive you over, if you're OK with that."

Sören decided he could risk getting in a car with this guy. He nodded. "Let's do that, then."

Anthony Wyatt-Jones drove a charcoal grey Audi A7. Sören knew he'd drive something flashy, though classic and elegant. Sören got in the passenger seat, feeling shy and a little giddy.

Before Anthony started the car, he took Sören's hand for a moment, giving him a pointed look. Anthony squeezed his hand, a simple, reassuring gesture that sent another flood of heat through Sören's body, a shiver down his spine, a little twinge from his cock. And then Anthony brought Sören's hand to his lips and kissed it.

It was raining now, and the rhythm of the windshield wipers cut through Sören's anxiety a little. Anthony had his car stereo on, jazz playing softly - Coltrane if Sören had to take a guess.

"Where do you live?" Sören asked, realizing he'd gotten in a car with a near-stranger without even asking that.

"Kingston upon Thames."

Sören didn't know what he was expecting for where the man lived. Sören just nodded, and watched the rain fall, every now and again glancing over his shoulder at the handsome man sitting next to him, driving, also watching the rain... also every now and again glancing over his shoulder.

Well, here we go.

Chapter Text

Anthony Wyatt-Jones lived in a spacious second-floor flat, riverfront. It was open plan kitchen and living room, with a large window giving a gorgeous view of the Thames. Sören was impressed just by the view itself, and then he got a better look at the first part of the flat when he got in. Anthony favored a muted grey, brown and blue color scheme that reminded Sören of the seaside, and was restful to the eye. The glass countertop in the kitchen matched the glass tabletop in the living room. There was some framed art on his walls - Sören approved of the Impressionist pieces he recognized, particularly Monet. A handsome bookshelf with a decent collection of hardbound books, a vinyl record collection and record player, a desk closer to the window. The appliances were all modern, but Anthony had a few vintage lamps, turning one on to produce a soft golden light as they walked in. His flat was tidy but also looked lived-in, which was a good sign to Sören.

"Please, sit down. Can I get you anything?" Anthony gave him a pointed look.

Sören was tempted to tell him to whip it out, but he behaved himself for now. "Whatever you're having is fine."

"All right."

Anthony came back with mineral water for each of them, and a bottle of Hennessy and two shot glasses. Sören felt a bit apprehensive - the last time he'd accepted a drink from a near-stranger, he'd woken up the next day in an alley used to the point of bleeding, cum seeping out of him, unable to remember what had happened, and he hadn't been able to press charges because he didn't even know the assailant's name or if the man who'd given him a drink had even been the only one who'd had him. Sören had gone out clubbing to cope with the grief of his sister's murder, which made this a one-two punch. Living in fear that he'd run into his assailant again had driven Sören to leave Iceland.

But the drink had been given to him in a club, he hadn't seen it poured. Anthony was pouring two shot glasses right in front of him, straight from the bottle. So Sören took the glass, and meeting Anthony's eyes, they did the shot together. Sören winced a little at the bite and burn of the drink.

Anthony laughed softly when Sören was done. "Cognac isn't your favorite, is it."

"No. Not a big fan of cognac or whisky. Brennivín, on the other hand, I can drink pretty much anyone under the table. Not that I drink much, or often, my guardians put me off to that. But once in awhile."

Anthony nodded. "I'm only an occasional drinker. Now and again." He turned on the television, and Sören looked at the large flat-screen TV. They looked at the guide together, and decided on a Bond movie. Sören was only half caring about it, his mind whirling with anticipation.

They started off just sitting side by side, Anthony's hand on his, gently stroking. After awhile Anthony draped an arm around him and Sören moved closer. Some time after that Sören leaned on his shoulder. When Anthony began petting Sören's curls, rubbing his scalp, Sören melted into his touch and stopped paying attention to the movie altogether. Sören found himself resting his head on Anthony's chest and now Anthony was rubbing his back, not just his head. It had been so long since Sören had been touched, and Sören couldn't remember being touched this sensually, tenderly, as if Anthony sensed how nervous he was and was soothing that tension away. There was so much relief flooding him just from being held, being pet, that it brought tears to Sören's eyes, tears that Sören fought back, not wanting to cry on the first date, especially not in front of the calm, cool professional. When Anthony's lips kissed the top of Sören's head Sören felt that urge to cry again, not used to what he was being given, needing it so much it hurt.

A few minutes later, Anthony said softly, "Sören, I have a question for you."

"Mmm?"

"Are you a top or a bottom?"

That was very forward, and yet they both knew as soon as they left the restaurant together where this was going. The movie was pretty much just a formality, a way to ease into what was about to happen. Sören still felt heat flush his cheeks. He picked his head up off Anthony's chest - Anthony was giving him a look that could drill through granite - and Sören felt himself grinning like an idiot as he just nodded. "Yes?" Sören said, giggling.

Anthony also nodded then, turning a little pink. "I see."

Sören felt like he was about to jump out of his skin with raw sexual need. Sören crinkled his nose and bit his lower lip. "So, ah... when do we fuck?"

Anthony took Sören's chin in his hand, thumb stroking the beard, and the fullness of Sören's lower lip. Sören's cock was straining now, every movement sending electricity through him. "We're not going to fuck," Anthony said.

Sören's face fell, disappointment hitting him like a popped balloon.

But there was a wicked gleam in Anthony's eye now. "We're going to make love." With that, he pulled Sören's face to his, and their lips met for the first time.

Sören didn't like the taste of Hennessy, but he loved tasting it on Anthony, moaning into the kiss as their lips parted and their tongues met, slowly playing together, flirting, teasing. Then Anthony took control of Sören's mouth like he owned him, the kiss going from playful to passionate, hard and demanding. Sören let out a whimper, his cock throbbing, every nerve in his body screaming for release. Just one kiss was enough to make him crazy, panting with need like an animal in heat. He needed more. So much more.

Anthony got up, and Sören followed him. There was a short, narrow hall where they passed a closet, a bathroom done in cream and gold and silver, and then at last the bedroom. Anthony had a large king-sized four-poster bed done in dark wood, matching furniture. The bedcovers were grey and blue, the duvet pulled down to show silk sheets. Sören looked out the window - another large window with a magnificent view of the Thames - and then he saw Anthony step out of the bedroom, heard the sound of the shower starting in the bathroom. Anthony stepped back in and began undressing, and Sören took that cue to undress as well.

Anthony was trim, fit without being too sculpted - the body of someone with a sedentary job who worked out sometimes but wasn't fanatical about it. Apart from the hair on his head, the rest of him was smooth and hairless, and Sören wondered if he was a swimmer on his time off, as he had the right build for it.

Sören also had a hairless chest, but unlike Anthony, he had a fine growth of dark hair over his arms and legs, and a riot of dark curls like the ones on his head framing his now very hard cock.

But Sören knew that what made Anthony's eyebrows go up with surprise wasn't that. The sleeve tattoos that Anthony had only seen glimpses of on Sören's wrists, went all the way from Sören's wrists to his shoulders - flames on one arm, ocean waves on the other - and they led out to a firebird and waterbird on his back, a piece Sören had designed from art he'd made during a very difficult time in his life, when he almost didn't finish med school due to worsening depression and anxiety. Sören also had his nipples pierced with captive bead rings, and the pièce de résistance was a Prince Albert piercing in the head of his cock, a titanium captive bead ring. If they had met through a dating app, Sören would have made a note of having some "hardware", which would be enough for people turned off by such things to give him a wide berth and those who didn't mind or perhaps had a fetish for it to pursue. But they hadn't met via an app, and Sören's clothes covered up his piercings until they didn't. Sören knew there was a risk that the clean-cut lawyer could see the ink and piercings and be put off by them... but Anthony was a little open-mouthed, breathing harder, and Sören saw Anthony's already hard cock go up some more, a bead of precum forming.

"You like?" Sören asked.

Anthony nodded, looking like he couldn't even make words, and the story that he'd freaked out a bit with asking Sören on a date now suddenly was quite a bit more believable.

Sören smiled, feeling bolder. He strode towards Anthony, grabbed him, and drew him into a kiss. Another deep, passionate kiss, hungry.

Anthony roughly seized Sören by the arm and dragged him along to the bathroom. Anthony got in the shower and pulled Sören in with him. Now Anthony took the initiative again, hot, fierce kisses as they held each other under the spray.

The petting on the couch was nothing compared to the feel of Anthony lathering him, hands that were soft and elegant yet decidedly male touching him everywhere, exploring, caressing. Sören lathered him as well, enjoying the way his hands fit to Anthony's body, the shape of him, the way Anthony broke out in gooseflesh at Sören's touch and quivered.

They played with each other's cocks, and when it was time for more kissing their hard cocks bumped up together. They were roughly the same length and girth, which Sören found aesthetically pleasing and arousing. They were both uncut, which was Sören's preference, and when Sören's fingers brushed over Anthony's cock he made sure to give the foreskin a little love, which made Anthony produce deep groans into deeper kisses.

Anthony's finger hooked through the ring in Sören's cock, like it belonged to him. Sören's cock throbbed at that and he kissed Anthony back harder. The fingers of Anthony's free hand brushed a nipple, played with the nipple ring, and Anthony made a murmur of pleasure to discover that Sören was in fact very sensitive there. He finally found his words. "You are breathtaking," he said.

Sören had been called many things, but "breathtaking" was not one of them, prior to now. Sören gave him a shy smile, feeling that flutter in his stomach, a warm glow of pride. "Takk," Sören husked. He ran his hands over Anthony's chest, smile broadening as he felt Anthony shiver again. "You're pretty nice yourself."

Anthony took Sören's chin in his hand once more, thumb tracing along the beard and Sören's lip. Their eyes were locked. Sören was all gooseflesh now, aching like he'd never ached for someone before. Part of him wanted to get down on his knees and suck Anthony off right then. Sören found himself sucking on Anthony's thumb, as if to hint at that want.

Anthony's response was to take Sören's face in his hands and kiss him as hard as Sören had ever been kissed before, taking his breath away. Sören felt his back shoved up against the shower wall and Anthony pinned his arms up against the wall and seized his wrists tightly, Anthony's cock rubbing against his, rubbing and rubbing. A couple of minutes of being in Anthony's grip, kissed like this, cocks rubbing together, and Sören cried out into the kiss as his cock shot off, trembling with each pulse of orgasm.

"Oh god," Sören said when the kiss broke. He had been so pent up without sex for so long that he realized he shouldn't have been surprised that he'd go off like this, but he was just the same. "I'm sorry. I -"

"Don't apologize." Anthony gave him a smug little look that was also somehow sexy as hell, like he was delighted at something he'd won. "You'll last longer now."

Before Anthony could clean up the seed that Sören had spilled, Sören collected some of it on his fingers and shoved his fingers in Anthony's mouth. Anthony sucked Sören's fingers with that same smug look of ownership, and a frisson went down Sören's spine, cock hardening up again.

They kissed on the way from the shower to the bed. The crisp silk sheets after the shower felt good. Sören noticed as he climbed in that Anthony was prepared, a bowl of condoms and lubricant near his alarm clock.

For a moment they just looked at each other, Sören propped on one elbow, his free hand wandering over Anthony as Anthony's fingers walked over him. Sören realized that he'd been asked whether he was a top or bottom - and the answer was of course that Sören was both, he was versatile, and that had seemed to end that discussion though it wasn't really ended, Sören was curious as to Anthony's own preference. Before he could ask, Anthony said, "You should know that I normally don't do penetration on the first date, or not even the second, if there's more than once."

"Oh." Sören wondered what was up with the condoms and lube, then.

"But..." Anthony pulled Sören towards him. "I'm going to break my rule, this evening."

Time for the question. "And you are..."

"Mostly a bottom." Anthony nodded, as if most found that information surprising. "I can top, and do sometimes, but only sometimes."

"OK," Sören said.

"And..." Anthony pulled Sören closer. His voice was husky as he said, "I really want you inside me."

Sören's cock leapt at that. "I'd be happy to oblige," Sören husked back, and leaned in for a kiss.

It was less demanding and possessive than before. Inviting, sweet and warm. This time Anthony moaned into the kiss too, and Sören shivered at the sound of it. He wanted to make Anthony moan like that again. And again. He wanted this confident, suave lawyer to be a sobbing fucking wreck when he was through with him. He also wanted to come again. Sören felt like he was going out of his mind with lust, every little touch and sound and nuance threatening to make him go off like a rocket again.

The kiss deepened, heated. Sören felt their cocks press together once more, and then Anthony took them both into his hand, stroking. Sören's breath hitched, and again when Anthony started kissing his neck, his shoulder. When Anthony kissed the sweet spot where Sören's neck and shoulder met Sören shuddered and let out an "ohgod."

Anthony grinned, and the thumb of his free hand played with one of Sören's nipples as he resumed kissing Sören's shoulder and neck. Sören's neck was supremely erogenous, and the combination of neck kisses and having his nipples teased made Sören make inhuman noises, which Anthony seemed to revel in, giving deep groans of his own every now and again.

Then Anthony stroked his face, brought him into another sweet, playful kiss. Anthony's fingers went from playing with Sören's nipple rings to playing with the ring in the head of Sören's cock, thumb brushing the sensitive head.

Through the haze of his desire, Sören realized he'd told Anthony the bare bones of his dating history and knew nothing about Anthony's. They could get in-depth another time, but for now Sören needed to ask, since this made a difference in how he'd handle topping Anthony. "How long has it been for you?"

"You mean since the last time I had sex, or the last time I've been tested?"

"Both, I suppose."

"Three weeks for sex but just oral, a little over three months ago if you're counting penetration. As far as being tested, the last time for me was five months ago." Anthony looked up at Sören. "As much as I'm keen on feeling that piercing without a barrier, the condoms are non-negotiable until we both get tested and I do that once every six months. So before Christmas."

That satisfied Sören not just because he approved that Anthony was being smart about his health - though he found it amusing that even between the sheets Anthony was a lawyer, using the word non-negotiable - but also because he was reading into Anthony's words that even as they had barely started their first time, there would be more. There was a chemistry between them Sören couldn't deny. He wanted to see where this went. He was ready to test his wings, after having been cautious and guarded for so long.

"You should still be able to feel the PA somewhat through a condom," Sören said. "I speak from experience."

"Good," Anthony said, and kissed him.

"Am I your first Prince Albert?"

"Yes. First time seeing one in person, first time... doing more than seeing one." Anthony was playing with the ring again. "I knew I found you intriguing, but this is even more interesting than I'd hoped for." He smiled.

Sören kissed him. Now it was Sören's turn to kiss Anthony's neck and shoulder, grinning at Anthony's soft moans and sighs. Sören gently pushed the barrister onto his back and began working him over, lapping one nipple as his thumb rolled the other, suckling one as he pinched the other. He was pleased that Anthony was sensitive there too, and after a few rounds at his nipples Sören kissed his way down Anthony's torso, kissing and licking and nibbling the taut stomach. When Sören's kisses reached Anthony's thighs, Anthony spread his legs and Sören heard the catch in his breath, knowing he was waiting for something.

Sören didn't disappoint, starting with taking Anthony's cock into his mouth. Anthony smiled as he watched Sören's lips wrap around his cock, Sören bobbing up and down, sucking slowly. The little sighs and gasps of pleasure became deeper moans as Sören sucked harder, faster. Sören played with Anthony's balls as he sucked, not just as an additional form of stimulation but also to gauge the arousal, and when he felt Anthony's balls tightening, he stopped sucking and lowered his head to trace his tongue around the opening in slow circles. Anthony's breath caught, and Anthony let out a full-fledged cry as Sören's tongue slipped inside.

Anthony was fresh from the shower and tasted clean. Sören's tongue found the prostate right away and lashed at it, taking Anthony's hands and squeezing as Anthony bucked against him, getting more vocal. Sören smiled as he lapped, gratified by watching that composure finally break. Sören spent awhile down there, taking his sweet time - as much as he needed to come again, he also loved doing this, pleasing, teasing.

Finally Anthony rasped, "Sören, please."

"Mmmmm." Sören gave a few teasing licks around the rim of Anthony's passage again before dipping his tongue back inside, licking more slowly than before. Anthony made a guttural noise that made Sören's cock twitch, and Sören reached down to stroke himself lazily.

After a few minutes of slow, deliberate licking, Sören felt Anthony's fists grabbing his curls and Anthony ground out, "Sören, now." There was a commanding, take-no-bullshit look on his face, one that Sören imagined probably saw plenty of use in the courtroom.

Sören somewhat reluctantly stopped rimming - only somewhat reluctantly because he did like to see Anthony take charge. Anthony reached for a condom and Sören grinned as Anthony's teeth ripped the packet open. No chill. Sören loved it.

Anthony rolled the condom onto Sören's cock, and Sören added a coat of lubricant. Sören reached out to stroke Anthony's face before guiding his cock to Anthony's passage. "I know it's been awhile for you so tell me to stop if you -"

"Put it fucking in me."

Sören's cock leapt at that. Sören did as he was told - albeit slowly, not wanting to hurt Anthony, who was tight. Anthony took deep breaths as Sören went in, seasoned enough to know to push out as Sören pushed in, and ride out any first pain at being stretched. When Sören was all the way in he leaned in to steal a kiss, resting inside him.

Then Sören started to thrust. Three thrusts in, Anthony made a noise, his eyes rolling and glazing over. Sören knew he didn't just find that spot, but his PA did. "Jæja?"

"Oh. God." Anthony made another guttural noise, nails digging into Sören.

Sören went just a little harder and faster, kissing Anthony's neck. He kept his pace in check for now, still mindful of Anthony's tightness - deliciously tight. Then Anthony's embrace was tight, Anthony kissing him hungrily. It was harder for Sören to keep from banging away, and harder still at the look on Anthony's face between kisses. Again, that guttural sound as Sören's PA worked its magic inside him.

The kisses got more intense, Anthony's arms had Sören in a death grip, and they were both breathing hard, starting to work up a fine sheen of sweat. Sören's breathy moans and Anthony's deeper groans filled the room, Sören losing himself in the pleasure of rocking in and out, the sweet tight rubbing around his cock, the look of lust on Anthony's face as Sören got him closer to the edge.

At last Anthony kissed Sören's neck and rasped, "Harder."

"You sure? You're so tight -"

"I said." Anthony glared. "Harder."

Sören did as he was told, his lust fueled by the command. Anthony groaned and growled, rolling his hips back at Sören. "Oh god," he panted, hands grabbing onto Sören's hips for dear life. "Oh god, like that."

Sören kissed him, and they both cried out as Sören's balls started smacking against Anthony's ass. A few minutes of that and Sören grabbed one of Anthony's legs and hooked it around him, going even harder.

"Oh fuck. Oh god, Sören, oh shit." Anthony was trembling, his cock dripping precum, and he gave Sören a desperate look before another shudder went through him and he gave a wordless cry.

"That's it, elskan." The Icelandic endearment just slipped out. Sören reached down for Anthony's cock, stroking it in rhythm with his thrusts. "Almost there..."

"Oh god. Oh god Sören... oh god. Oh my fucking god." Anthony was panting harder - Sören could see now what he meant by hyperventilating. Just the sound of that alone was about to bring Sören off, never mind the deliciousness of those moans, their flesh slapping together, the grip on his cock.

"Yes, elskan. Let go for me. Show me how much you need to lose control like this."

Anthony's nails raked him. "Sören. Sören. Sören. Almost there... almost there..."

"Yes. Yes." Sören's free hand played over Anthony's chest, started rubbing a nipple.

A moment that felt like an eternity of Sören's savage, wild thrusts and Anthony's feral moans, and then Anthony looked into Sören's eyes and cried out, "Sören," and that was it, his cock blasting an arc of cream over Sören's chest. The feeling of hot cum on his nipples and Anthony's channel contracting around him and Sören's own orgasm hit, throwing back his head and crying out as his body gave in. Sören felt another set of contractions around him, heard Anthony moan as he sprayed Sören's chest and stomach again.

Sören stopped thrusting, too sensitive now, and rested on top of Anthony, letting the both of them catch their breath before a kiss.

"Good?" Sören asked.

"Oh god, Sören." Anthony laughed and nodded, looking a bit dazed. "That was amazing."

"Good." Sören kissed him again.

They rested for a few minutes, racing heartbeats slowing, the euphoric bliss of orgasm easing into peaceful coziness, listening to the rain fall. Then Anthony kissed Sören's shoulder and husked, "I want to go again."

Sören laughed. "All right."

Sören pulled out, peeled off the used condom, and Anthony put another one on Sören's cock. Sören lubed up again and eased his way inside. Sören kept it slow, not wanting to hurt him, and then Anthony growled, "Take me hard, Sören. Show me what you've got."

Sören obliged, putting Anthony's legs on his shoulders, and plowed. Anthony got even more vocal this time, and Sören loved it, loved it, giving himself over wholly to primal instinct, balls slapping wildly, answering Anthony's moans with deep animal noises of his own. Both of them having come - Sören having come twice now - stretched out the time, and Sören worried a little that Anthony would be sore and hurt the next day from the long, hard pounding, but Anthony had no complaints in the meantime, only urging Sören on with wild cries.

Anthony got more breathless as he got closer, and when he climaxed he couldn't even cry out, only gave a shuddery gasp that was so luscious to Sören that it made Sören come too, holding back his own shout of release until the sound stopped.

They laughed together, rocking each other through the ebb of their orgasm. "Wow." Anthony's smile was that of sheer joy. "Holy shit."

"We're good together," Sören said.

"We are." Anthony gave him a little kiss, and their noses rubbed together before they kissed again more deeply, smouldering embers left over from the fire.

At some point, Sören ended up pulling out, dispensing with the second condom, and snuggling into Anthony's waiting arms. And then he drifted off. In the middle of the night he woke to realize he was in someone else's bed, and he'd actually been sleeping. Usually Sören didn't actually sleep with the people he slept with, taking off soon after the sex was over, or at best, laying there restless, feeling too hypervigilant in a strange bed or with someone strange in his bed to actually sleep. It was a new, weird feeling, this business of letting down his guard enough to be able to go to sleep with another human being. Sören liked it, smiling to himself as he cuddled up to Anthony and went back to sleep.

Anthony's alarm woke them in the morning. Sören gave the clock a foul look. "I set the alarm for the same time every day whether I work or not," Anthony said, voice throaty from sleep. "That way my body clock doesn't get too disrupted."

Sören snorted. "What is this body clock of which you speak."

"Oh yes." Anthony rubbed his back. "I imagine you have rather an erratic schedule."

"My schedule is so erratic it can't even be called a schedule."

"Well..." Anthony looked into Sören's eyes. "How did you sleep last night?"

"Good," Sören admitted. "The best I've slept in awhile. Getting laid did me a world of good." He kissed the tip of Anthony's nose without thinking about it. "You?"

"Very good." Anthony's arms wrapped around him. "It was nice, holding you."

"Jæja, it was nice... being held."

They gave each other one of those long, meaningful looks, and then Anthony was stroking Sören's curls and his face. "It's nice waking up to you too."

Sören took Anthony's hand and kissed it, and then kissed Anthony's mouth. They were both hard again.

After being pounded last night, Anthony wasn't up to get penetrated again this morning, but that was hardly the only thing they could do with each other. They settled into a hungry sixty-nine, sucking and rimming each other, devouring at first, then slowing down to tease and savor, not wanting this time to be over just yet. Anthony was sucking him so sweetly that Sören felt the urge to cry again, and as if he could tell how Sören was feeling, Anthony took Sören's hand and squeezed. That simple, caring touch made Sören go to town, tongue fucking inside Anthony until he was making inhuman noises with his mouth full of Sören's cock. When Sören took Anthony's cock back in his mouth it wasn't long before Anthony flooded it, and the light, clean salty-sweet taste of him brought Sören over the edge, Anthony murmuring appreciatively as he tasted Sören as well. Sören swallowed down the cream and licked up what was still dripping, and when the two rose up and kissed, Sören thought that the flavor of them together was one of the best things he'd ever tasted.

Their legs braided together and Sören rested his head in Anthony's chest, relishing the way Anthony pet him.

"I'm keeping you," Anthony said.

Sören couldn't resist, looking up at him with a grin. "Hi Keeping You, I'm Sören -"

Anthony slapped Sören's ass. "Brat."

Sören gave him a little kiss. Then Sören breathed, still stunned, "So does this mean..."

"I'd like to be your boyfriend, Sören, yes." Anthony stroked Sören's face. "We're still getting to know each other, but... I want to keep seeing where this goes. I like what I've seen so far, very much."

"Me too." Sören kissed him again. "We can do this."

"It's too bad you have to work tonight."

"Jæja, welcome to my world. Relationships are work, and we're going to have our work cut out for us with our respective schedules."

Anthony nodded. "I'd still like to try."

"I'd like that too." Now Sören was stroking Anthony's face.

"What are your hours like this week?"

"Busy. I have Wednesday evening off but I'm working so much between tonight and Wednesday that I will absolutely need to crash. But like I said, I have my birthday off, that's this Friday. I have that entire weekend off."

"I'd like to do something for your birthday."

"Yes, please." Sören pet Anthony some more.

"And maybe I can drop by the hospital and we can do breakfast or lunch between now and your birthday?"

"OK. And we'll figure stuff out for next week. I should be able to squeeze you in for a sleepover or two." Sören couldn't resist again. "Or more like me squeezing in, heyyy."

Anthony laughed. "You're incorrigible." He kissed Sören's forehead. "I like it."

"You know what else I am?" Sören nibbled Anthony's neck. "I'm insatiable."

Anthony grinned. "Hi Insatiable, I'm Anthony -"

"Oh, fuck you."

Anthony laughed as he rolled Sören onto his back, kissing his way down.

Chapter Text

Sören was pulling a particularly long shift from Sunday evening through most of Monday, and after a brain tumor excision he was feeling pretty brain drained himself, chugging coffee to get through the remaining hours. Then he heard himself being paged to the front desk, something he wasn't expecting, hoping that it wasn't the family of one of his patients, asking questions.

There was a young man dressed in a bland, nondescript outfit, polo shirt and khakis, except his polo shirt had a logo from a florist on it. He was carrying a clipboard and held it out to Sören. "Mr. Sigurdsson? Please sign."

"What am I signing for?" Sören was confused.

Then he saw it - a dozen red roses with baby's breath. Sören's heart started racing as he signed. He picked up the bouquet and walked it to the break room, where he'd be putting a note out that they were his, to take home when his shift was done. In the meantime, there was a small card attached to the bouquet - Starry Night by Van Gogh on the outside, which happened to be Sören's favorite painting of all time, one that Sören had a framed print of in his living room. Either someone had done their research, or they really got lucky with their choice of card. Sören opened the card, heavy stock with a light blue inside. A careful, elegant hand wrote:

He walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in his aspect and his eyes.


That was a lovely first date, I can't wait to see you again.
-A


Sören actually squeaked out loud. His colleagues Pamela and Colin were in the break room; Colin gave him a look of amusement, perfect white teeth lighting up his chocolate face.

"Someone gave you flowers?"

Sören nodded, biting his lower lip. His face was on fire and his heart was turning cartwheels.

"Either someone really appreciates a procedure or you've got yourself an admirer," Pamela said with a toss of her red hair, "and I'm guessing from that look on your face it's the latter."

"Jæja, I think so." Sören's face burned even harder, and he could feel himself grinning like an idiot.

"Oooh, do dish, who's the lucky bloke?" Pamela raised an eyebrow.

"Lawyer," Sören said. "Tall, dark, handsome." Hung. "Very charming. We, ah, went out on Saturday. It was nice."

"Seems a bit better than nice from the look on your face," Pamela said.

"Yeah," Colin said. "Quite a bit."

"Our sweet little Sören has a boyfriend," Pamela said.

Sören made a "meep" noise like Beaker of the Muppets, and Pamela and Colin laughed like this was the funniest thing ever.

And even more than the caffeine, the roses and the card got him through the remainder of his shift, feeling like he was walking on air. Sören held the bouquet on the Tube ride home, nose buried in the flowers - usually commercial roses didn't have much of a fragrance but the perfume of this bouquet was downright heady, between that and the vibrant color and health of the roses it was clear Anthony had been careful about what to send Sören.

Once Sören was in his flat in Bromley and showered and changed into pajamas, before he curled up with his sketchbook, he dialed Anthony's number on his cell. It went to voice mail. Sören heard his deep, smooth velvet voice announce, "Hello, you've reached Anthony Wyatt-Jones. I'm not available right now, please leave your name, a brief message and a callback number and I will return your call at my earliest convenience. Thank you." Beep.

Sören was so flustered just hearing that voice, his stomach doing cartwheels again, that he let out a "meep" into the phone, followed by a dying whale noise that the "meep" had actually come out of him, followed by an "ó, skítur" that he'd now made two ridiculous noises, before he hung up, smacking himself in the forehead repeatedly, screaming wordlessly with frustration at himself.

Smooth, now you sound like the biggest dumbarse who ever lived.

Sören still hit the number again, waited through the voice mail message a second time, which gave him the flutters even more, and then Sören took a deep breath and at the beep he blurted out, "Hi, Anthony, this is Sören. I just wanted to call and say thank you for the flowers. That was really thoughtful and it made my day. I also really enjoyed the weekend and want to see you again. So. Ah. Takk. PS, that was me being an arse just now, please disregard that message, I got all... stupid and gooey. Ah. Bye." Then Sören ended the call.

He was hungry and with his hours he rarely cooked, maybe a big meal once a week to have leftovers for a couple meals at best. Tonight was one of those nights where he was going to have to get takeaway again. He dialed the Indian place and as he waited, he began to sketch. While he loved Impressionist art, his own art was strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, though on the occasions he painted it was a bit more photorealistic as well as a touch of surrealism, a touch of magic in the mundane. He hadn't had any energy lately for painting, though, and yet as he kept looking at the card with his bouquet, it nagged him. He'd been thinking about painting the weekend of his birthday, but he knew he wasn't going to have time for that with whatever Anthony had planned. That was OK. In the meantime he'd just draw, his latest sketch being a garden.

When he was a bit absorbed in his sketch, his cell went off, and he wondered if it was the delivery driver - usually they just came right up. It was also still a bit soon for them to get here. Then he saw Anthony's number. He answered right away. "Jæja?"

"Hi." Anthony's voice was warm, cheerful. "I just got your message." A soft chuckle. "Messages."

"Oh god, I'm sorry, I'm an idiot -"

"You're adorable."

Sören's face was on fire again. He felt himself grinning, biting his lower lip. "Awww, takk." Sören ran a nervous hand through his curls. "Thank you so much for the roses. And the card, with the poem. That's Byron?"

"Yes. I changed the gender for obvious reasons, but that is indeed Lord Byron."

"You couldn't have known this, I don't think, but Starry Night is my favorite painting."

"I saw you looking at the prints I have framed in my flat. It seems my observation you like that school of art was correct."

"Wow." Sören didn't know whether to be impressed or terrified that Anthony had been noticing Sören looking around his flat and taking mental notes on his reactions. "Well, I do. It was a nice touch."

"I'm glad you liked it. I was a little worried you'd find the traditional red roses a bit boring -"

"Oh no! I love roses."

"I decided to err on the side of caution rather than going for something more exotic like orchids, even though you're rare and interesting enough it seems that suits better."

"Classic is always a good choice. My flat smells heavenly right now."

"Sören... what are you doing right now?"

"I am in my pajamas waiting for takeaway. I worked over 14 hours, I was up all night -"

"Dear god. You poor thing."

"So I am going to eat and then I am going to crash."

"Well, shit."

Anthony sounded so disappointed that Sören felt bad, as well as that small elated thrill that Anthony really wanted to see him. "I'm so sorry. If I wasn't, like, dead on my feet I'd tell you to come over, but -"

"It's all right." A soft sigh. "When is your break tomorrow? Can I come see you?"

"If you can get to the hospital around 1 PM, I should be available unless a surgery goes catastrophically wrong. No, that doesn't happen much."

"Brilliant. 1 it is. Would you like me to bring anything?"

"Yourself, and coffee if you don't mind."

"I don't. How do you take yours?"

"Light cream, three sugars." Sören couldn't resist. "I like my coffee like I like my men, dark and sweet."

Anthony laughed. "I'll see you tomorrow, Sören. Rest well."

"You too, when you get there."

When the call was over Sören held the phone to his heart for a moment, giving a little wistful sigh. The sound of Anthony's voice, and thinking about him, made Sören feel a bit randy - unfortunately he really was too tired for sex and had to stick to his plan of eating, sketching till he had digested enough to go lay down and sleep without an issue. He really wished Anthony could come over tonight, if only just to hold him. But the way he was feeling, he wouldn't want it to be just cuddles. The thought of the passion they'd shared on Saturday night and Sunday morning made Sören crave more.

So much more. He could get addicted to their sex pretty easily.

I could fall in love with him pretty easily, too. Sören sighed again, and wondered if he wasn't already most of the way there.


_


One PM on Tuesday couldn't come fast enough. Anthony was waiting for Sören in the cafe for visitors, with coffee for each of them. As soon as Sören walked in, Anthony got up from the table to pull out a chair for Sören - charmingly old-fashioned - and Sören went right to him and gave him a hug and a little kiss.

It felt so good to be in his arms again, to feel his warmth, to breathe his scent. On the other hand all of those things and the heat in Anthony's eyes made Sören's cock start to wake up, which was a bit awkward being in his scrubs.

Sören also felt self-conscious about being in his scrubs when Anthony was so put-together, today wearing a dark navy pinstripe suit with a white shirt and blue tie. Sören realized that Anthony knew he was coming to the hospital and seeing him in scrubs was expected, but he still felt stupid just the same, in awe of this gorgeous, elegant man. Sören's face was on fire as he sat down, and it burned even more as Anthony pushed the cup of coffee across the table to him, putting his hands over Sören's and looking into his eyes before Sören could take the cup.

"Takk," Sören said. He felt himself grinning like an idiot again, reluctantly pulling his hands away from Anthony's to start on his coffee. "How are you?"

"Better, now that I can look at you."

Sören's stomach was turning flip-flops, his heart soaring. "I. Ah. Like looking at you too." Then Sören gestured to his scrubs. "Jesus, I'm a wreck."

"I did ask you out with you in your scrubs, Sören. You're cute."

Sören crinkled his nose and bit his lower lip. He reached with his free hand to squeeze Anthony's hand as he sipped his coffee.

"When does your shift end?" Anthony asked.

"It doesn't," Sören joked, and then he shook his head and with a frown he said, "Late. Probably later than you ought to be staying up if you've got work tomorrow."

Anthony frowned too.

"I'm sorry." Sören hated seeing the sadness in his eyes. Then he sighed, wondering if this was fair. "Anthony, I'mma be real with you, I really, really like you, and I want to be with you, but I work at least sixty hours a week every week, usually closer to seventy-two. What free time I have, you can consider it yours, we'll find a way to make this work if you want it to work, but this is unfortunately what you're signing up for. I'll understand if you want to find someone with more compatible hours -"

"They're not you." Their eyes held. "I know what I want, and what I want is you, and like you said... we'll make this work."

A frisson went down Sören's spine. Anthony's words I know what I want, and what I want is you echoed in his head. And Sören wanted him, too, relieved at the reassurance. As soon as this was, with the two of them getting to know each other, it also felt right. Something clicked with them.

"We're doing my birthday this weekend, já?"

"We certainly are. When you say you have Friday off, you mean the entire day?"

Sören nodded. "I'll be getting off late Thursday, but if you want to start the festivities early and don't mind driving out at 11 PM to pick me up -"

"I don't."

"We can go back to your place? I'd invite you to sleep over mine but, ah, yours is nicer."

"We can stop at your place unless you can bring a bag to work, pack some things for the weekend. I'd like to take you on a little holiday for your birthday if that's OK with you."

"Oh my god, I'd love that." Sören's face lit up. "Where?"

"That's a surprise." Anthony smiled.

"Well, I'm sure I'll love it. I haven't been, ah, anywhere, really, since I came here last year."

"Did you want to go back to Iceland for your birthday?"

Sören shook his head adamantly. He didn't want to get into why he didn't want to go back to Iceland this soon into the relationship - eventually, that might come out, but not now, and especially not here in a public place. "I do not, but thank you for asking."

The look Anthony gave him suggested to Sören that he'd picked up on Sören's discomfort, but he knew not to press it now. Sören sipped his coffee, and now Anthony was the one to squeeze his hand, as if to say it's OK.

"Also, for future reference..." Anthony raised an eyebrow. "What kind of flowers do you like, besides roses?"

"Yes?" Sören laughed. "I love flowers. All different kinds of flowers. It's very hard to disappoint me." Despite Sören's discomfort with the idea of a return visit to his home country, he had to share this anyway. "I grew up in Akureyri, which isn't big at all, but it has a famous botanical garden, and I used to go there a lot when I needed to get out of the house, just to hang out and be at peace in the garden with all the pretty flowers. It was a good place to sketch, and a good place for me to learn how to sketch different kinds of flowers, trees -"

Anthony's eyebrows shot up. "You draw?"

"And paint." Sören ran a nervous hand through his curls and shifted in his chair, immediately wishing he hadn't said anything, remembering the way his aunt and uncle ridiculed his art and ripped it up, threw it out. "I'm probably not any good, but I like it -"

"Did you design your ink?"

Sören nodded solemnly.

"Then you're probably a lot better than you think you are. I'd like to see it, anyway, if you have a sketchbook or something you can bring this weekend."

"If you insist." Oh god, he's going to think it's stupid and dump me.

"I do." Anthony's eyes locked with his again. "So... that's what you do in your spare time? Is art?"

Sören nodded. "It's a bit of a passion of mine. I would have gone into art if I hadn't gone into medicine. But like I said, I probably suck at it..."

"I doubt that."

Sören quickly changed the subject. "What about you and your spare time?"

"What is this spare time of which you speak."

Sören laughed. "God, if that isn't a mood."

"Yeah, you get it." Anthony sighed. "I do a lot of things -"

"I bet."

Anthony gave him a wicked grin, eyes gleaming. "Besides that, you." He started playing footsie with Sören under the table, sending another frisson down Sören's spine. "I read -"

"Oh good. I mean, I kind of figured from the card you sent..."

Anthony nodded. "I like going to concerts. I have music on a lot when I'm home, I collect vinyl. I play piano, though I'm no virtuoso. I usually go to the pub with my colleagues once a week or so."

"If I show you my crappy art, you have to play piano for me sometime."

"You're on."

Anthony's footsie was getting more insistent. Sören's cock was wanting attention again, as his Doc Martens teased against Anthony's brogues.

"Should be interesting to see where this goes," Sören said.

"I can already tell I won't be bored, you'll be able to keep up with me intellectually. That's a big plus."

"It's a big plus to me that you say that," Sören said. Then he snickered. "Though, you have a lot of faith in my intellectual abilities, with the noises I made into your voice mail."

"It was precious." Anthony gave him a genuine smile. "Nobody's ever reacted like that to me before."

"Really? I find that hard to believe. Even now, I feel like I can barely string two words together."

"I feel the same way. I'm good at hiding it. Have to be, in my line of work."

Their eyes met again. "Really?" Sören facepalmed. "Wow, I say 'really' a lot."

"Really?"

Sören kicked him under the table. Anthony grinned into his coffee, and then his brogue slid up Sören's calf. Sören's cock was twinging again and Sören shifted in his seat.

"Can you do breakfast tomorrow?" Anthony asked.

Sören nodded. "Meet me here 6 AM?"

"OK."

I'd rather eat you. Sören didn't say that aloud. "I'm sorry that I won't be able to do tomorrow night, but at least we've got that, and you picking me up Thursday night for my birthday..."

Anthony nodded. "We'll make that work."

"I really - oh god, there's that word again..."

Anthony chuckled and gave Sören's hand another assuring squeeze, a pat... a scratch on the palm, as his feet played with Sören's under the table some more.

"I really appreciate that you're willing to give this a chance, with our crazy hours," Sören said.

"I don't meet someone like you every day."

Sören crinkled his nose and bit his lower lip, face burning again.

"I unfortunately can't stay too long, or I would have offered lunch." Anthony looked at the clock and cringed.

"I appreciate that you came at all."

They got up from the table and Anthony took Sören into his arms, and he said, "Actually, I have one last question for you."

"Hm?"

That wicked look in his eyes again as Anthony leaned in and husked, "I'd like to see your equipment again... to make sure it's fully functional."

Somehow, they ended up in a supply closet, kissing feverishly as the door closed behind them. Sören moaned as Anthony yanked down Sören's scrub pants and boxer-briefs, his aching cock springing free. Sören moaned again as he watched Anthony get down on his knees and swallow his cock down to the root, sucking hard and fast, like he was starving for it. Sören grabbed Anthony's head and stifled a cry, not wanting to alert anyone passing in the hall what they were doing.

It was a power trip, seeing this high-flying barrister down on his knees, hungrily sucking him off. And yet, at the same time, Sören felt like he was the one being conquered - that there was nothing submissive in this gesture and Anthony was doing exactly what he wanted to do, taking what he thought was his. And Sören loved that feeling too. Sören began to gently thrust into his mouth, breathing harder. Anthony encouraged him along by humming "mmmmmm", and when he cupped Sören's balls and began to rub, Sören almost came from that, moaning again.

Anthony slowed down a little, teasing him, teasing more when he pulled back to focus on the head and first few inches of the shaft, working the rest of it with his free hand.

"God, I can't believe we're doing this," Sören rasped.

Anthony pulled Sören's cock out of his mouth. "I've been going out of my mind wanting you," he husked before taking a few licks at Sören's cock, a worshipful look in his green eyes. His eyes still locked with Sören's as he took Sören's cock back into his mouth, and Sören felt his own eyes rolling, glazing over as he got closer.

Sören bit his hand to stifle a cry when he climaxed, knees buckling, sliding a little down the wall as Anthony made a "mmmmmmm" drinking him down. He licked Sören's cock clean and came up to kiss him and Sören made a little content noise at the taste of himself on his lover's tongue. Anthony was rock hard and Sören fumbled with his belt, got his cock out, and started stroking it as they kissed. A moment later Anthony was done, moaning into the kiss as he trembled against Sören, shooting into Sören's hand. Sören reveled in knowing Anthony was so aroused sucking him off that it didn't take much. Sören brought his hand to his mouth and licked it clean as Anthony recovered, and Anthony groaned at the sight of Sören tasting him.

"God, I wish we had more time." Anthony kissed him deeply.

"Me too. But we will... this weekend."

Anthony's arms wrapped around Sören again and they kissed again, sweetly, a promise of more to come.

Sören walked him outside - peeking outside the supply closet first to make sure the coast was clear. On the way out the lobby Sören giggled like they were children caught being naughty. One last kiss, and Sören sighed sadly as he walked Anthony stride off, waving.

I already miss him. I've definitely got it bad.

But he couldn't be too sad, with that awesome blowjob in the closet, the shit-eating grin returning to his face as he went back inside, feeling the spring in his step. I've got it good, too.

That night, when he got home, he pressed a rose in a book and preserved some of the rose petals in a bowl from the bouquet Anthony had sent on Monday. He was sentimental like that.

Chapter Text

Sören being willing to meet Anthony for Wednesday breakfast was rather a sign that he was falling hard for this guy, as Sören was very much not a morning person. Early shifts were unavoidable as a junior surgeon with the NHS, but Sören didn't like it anyway, and usually preferred his mornings to be quiet, where he could be grumpy alone. But just being around Anthony was a balm for his soul - Anthony seemed to intuitively understand Sören wanted a quiet, mellow breakfast and that was what they did, watching the sunrise together, gently touching. It was nice. Sören reflected later that he minded mornings far less when Anthony was around.

He was already becoming a fixture in Sören's life, and that scared him a little, but it felt right just the same.

Sören still didn't know what Anthony's birthday surprise was for him, Anthony playing those cards close to his chest until Thursday night when Anthony picked Sören up at the hospital and drove to Sören's flat in Bromley so Sören could pick up the bag he'd packed for the weekend. Anthony elected to wait in the car while Sören ran up and got his bag - Sören was relieved, as he felt a little self-conscious about Anthony seeing the flat, compared to what Anthony's looked like - and before Sören got out of the car, Anthony said, "Make sure you have your passport."

Sören gave him the side-eye, and again when he came downstairs with his bag and his passport in hand. "Anthony, what did you do." He realized he couldn't be too surprised at this when Anthony had asked if Sören wanted to go to Iceland for his birthday and Sören had declined, that travel was still on his agenda somehow, but he was surprised nonetheless.

"We're going to the airport."

"Now?" Sören's jaw dropped. As tired as he was, there was a sudden jolt of energy.

"Now. Stansted. It's a bit of a drive -" It was an hour from Bromley to Stansted Airport. Anthony gave Sören a small, apologetic frown. "But a reasonably short flight. We're taking an overnight."

"To..."

"Flying in directly to Charles de Gaulles in Paris."

Anthony waited, and Sören's eyes widened. Sören let out a squeak, and then he threw his arms around Anthony's neck and began raining kisses over his face. "Oh my god. Oh my god. Ó guð minn ó guð minn..."

Anthony laughed and gently pushed Sören off him. "I have to drive, sweetheart -"

Oh my god he called me sweetheart. Sören screamed, flailing. Anthony laughed harder.

"You're so cute," Anthony husked, leaning in to give Sören a little kiss before he got back on the road.

"I... can't. Believe it." Sören laughed and cried at the same time. He shook his head at Anthony. Then he gestured to the clock on the dash. "But we're going at this hour? The flight couldn't wait until morning?"

"We only have till Sunday night, so I wanted to make sure we get as much time in Paris as we can." At breakfast on Wednesday Anthony and Sören had touched base about Sören's schedule - Sören had also given him a copy of his new schedule for the next fortnight, starting next Monday. They had to go back on Sunday evening for Sören to start on Monday morning early. "And... after we get there and go to sleep in our hotel room, I wanted you to be able to wake up in Paris on your birthday."

Sören gasped. That was incredibly romantic. Sören got teary again. Then he gave Anthony a playful little swat. "Anthony... this was a lot of trouble and expense to go to. You must have spent a small fortune to get tickets on such short notice, never mind booking the room -"

"The cost wasn't as bad as you might fear, but even if it was, you're worth it to me." Anthony took Sören's hand and kissed it, before putting both hands on the wheel again.

"Jesus." Sören shook his head in disbelief, laughing and crying some more. "I'm in shock. Seriously." Sören glanced back at Anthony. "I've never been to Paris."

"Really?"

"I never left Iceland at all until 2010. When I came here." Sören shrugged. "I come from nothing, I grew up dirt poor, couldn't afford to travel as a kid. Just going down to Reykjavik was a big deal. And all I've done since I've got here has been work, there's been no time to travel -"

"I'd like to start changing that." Their eyes met. "I'd like to show you places I've been, places you might enjoy visiting as I did. I was fortunate enough to have a pocket of time, years ago, where I got to see most of western Europe."

"Like Sweden." Sören smirked.

"Like Sweden. But I've been... around."

Sören snorted at that. Anthony realized the innuendo and rolled his eyes. "Not as much as you might think, Sören, though I did my share of sowing my oats as a young man."

"Same here, so I can't say anything. I was probably worse. I pretty much fucked half of Iceland."

Anthony turned pink and his laughter rang out.

"OK, maybe that's exaggerating it slightly." Sören chuckled. Then he said, "How did this conversation even turn into sex, anyway?"

"Because it involves you, and apparently your mind lives there."

"Uh huh. Something tells me you're just as bad."

"Probably." Anthony gave him a wicked look. "At least if you're around. Difficult for me to think of much else."

"I still can't believe you blew me at the hospital." Sören laughed. "God. A blowjob at the hospital... being whisked away to Paris... what is my life turning into."

"A life," Anthony said. "All work and no play, and all of that. Not that I can talk, either, but this will be good for both of us."

Sören leaned in and kissed his cheek. "Thank you, so much." Sören ruffled his hair. "I still can't believe it."

"Believe it. I want to spoil you."

Sören crinkled his nose and bit his lower lip, watching Anthony's cheeks flush in the glow of the lamp on the roof. Sören leaned back in his seat - Anthony hit a button so Sören's seat would recline a little - and Sören hugged himself, relaxing as Anthony zipped down the highway. The car stereo was playing softly and Sören recognized it.

"Jamiroquai?"

"They're my favorite band." Anthony looked a little self-conscious. "More popular when I was coming of age -"

"Oh no, I like them too. My taste in music is all over the place."

"I seem to favor jazz and R&B, though I like classical and indie rock too. It's not unusual for me to go from listening to something like Marvin Gaye to something like Radiohead next song."

"Good, we'll get on. I like soul music a lot, though when I'm not listening to that it tends to be goth or industrial or prog metal. Sometimes classic rock too."

"I kind of got that sense looking at you."

Sören nodded. "I operate to stuff like Rush, Led Zeppelin, Tool. Or I do when Colin isn't picking the music, 'cos we take turns if we operate together. Then we work to shit like... Doctor Dre and Snoop Dogg. I'll never forget the time we had 'Keep Their Heads Ringing' during an awake surgery on some MP -"

Anthony wheezed. "Wow."

"That was an experience. Colin Traynor is my favorite to operate with, he's got a great sense of humor, good bedside manner, helps me calm nervous patients down."

"Traynor? Does he have a sister, Diana?"

"Yes. Colin talks about her sometimes."

"His sister is my EA. You'll meet her, eventually."

"Wow! It's a small world." Sören sighed. "And a big world. I still can't believe I'm going to bloody Paris for my birthday." He chuckled.

Sören had only flown once in his life, the flight from Reykjavik to London in 2010, and the relief he'd felt at leaving behind the constant fear that he'd run into his rapist or one of his rapist's friends somewhere was the thing that stuck out at him about that trip. But now the other remembered feeling came back to him - the panic as the plane began to take off and he could feel the g forces accelerating. Sören heard himself go "meep" and wanted to crawl under his seat and die.

"Shhhhh." Anthony took Sören's hand, stroking assuringly, and then he pulled Sören close to him and held him as much as the constraints of their seatbelts would allow. "Shhhhh, it's all right, darling."

God, he loved being called little endearments like this. Sören snuggled into him, let himself be held by those strong, comforting arms.

"Deep breaths." Anthony pet Sören's curls.

Sören got through takeoff with deep breaths in Anthony's arms, and was a bit less anxious in-flight, dozing off on Anthony's shoulder. Then the landing kicked up Sören's anxiety again and Anthony held him through that, too. Sören gave another "meep" in the descent.

"Sören, look." Anthony pointed out the window, which Sören was closer to.

Sören's breath caught as he saw a bird's eye view of Paris lit up at night, recognizing the Eiffel Tower right away. "Oh my god." Now he was glad Anthony had gone for an overnight flight beyond wanting Sören to wake up in Paris on his birthday. There was still a touch of anxiety as the plane continued to drop, but mostly Sören was just in awe looking out the window at Paris at night.

Sören's legs felt a little wobbly when he got off the plane - he was very, very tired after a long shift, and being kept up later than anticipated with the flight. But when he and Anthony got out of the airport and waited for the taxi that would bring them to the hotel, a giddy feeling of elation flooded him and Sören let out a whoop into the night air. He put his bag down for a moment, threw his arms around Anthony and kissed him hard.

"I'm in Paris," Sören said. God, that's dumb, of course we're in Paris. He couldn't stop the words bubbling out of him again and again. "I'm in Paris. Oh my god, I'm in Paris. I'm in Paris..."

Anthony grinned. He looked tired too - Sören stroked his face and felt a flutter, touched once again at the trouble he'd gone to, not just the expense of coordinating all of this on short notice but that he'd driven to Stansted late at night when he too had a long day, had gotten on a plane late at night to make this happen. Sören gave a wistful little sigh, feeling like he was the luckiest man in the world.

When they got in the taxi, Anthony gave instructions in French, and Sören felt all tingly, even though he didn't understand a word of what was being said. If this trip was going to involve hearing Anthony speak a lot of French, Sören was going to want to spend a fair amount of it in bed. Sören cursed feeling too tired to do anything but just pass out once they got to the hotel, but at least Anthony looked about the same amount of tired.

At the hotel Anthony again spoke French at the reception desk. Sören felt another frisson down his spine. Once they were given the key to the room and Anthony said his thanks in French they were off, heading towards the elevator.

Sören took deep breaths in the elevator - he was a touch claustrophobic, and even working at National where he had to use an elevator every day hadn't quite broken him out of it. Anthony seemed to notice Sören was nervous, and Sören felt heat flood his face, self-conscious about being a scared little baby in elevators, especially one that wasn't even all that small. But Anthony's arm was around him and he whispered, "We'll be there soon."

Sören started undressing out of his scrubs as soon as they got in the suite. It was a penthouse with a magnificent view of Paris - Sören's breath caught again with the Paris skyline lit up at night, the Eiffel Tower rising to greet him. His breath caught again when he walked into the bathroom to "scrub out", annoyed with himself for not doing that immediately in the hotel room, since he'd been on a plane filled with other people and their germs, and his annoyance was quickly replaced with awe at the sight of the jacuzzi in the room, black marble trimmed with gold.

"My god."

Anthony came up behind him and wrapped his arms around Sören's waist. "Hi."

"Hi." Sören tilted his face and gave him a little kiss, and a nuzzle. "The hot tub. Wow."

"You..." Anthony blinked. "You've never been in a hot tub, either?"

Sören shook his head. "I've been in hot springs, those are all over Iceland, but that's outside, that's different. I've never had occasion to be in a hot tub. You really have spoiled me."

Anthony gave Sören a kiss. "We better get some sleep."

They climbed in the king-sized bed together, laying on their sides facing each other. Anthony reached for Sören and pulled him close, and Sören made a noise of contentment as he curled up. "Thassnice," Sören slurred.

Anthony pet Sören's curls and kissed the top of his head. "You feel good." He rocked Sören a little. "So warm." He gave a soft chuckle. "You're like a living space heater."

Sören laughed too. "I always run a bit hot, yeah. Summers are brutal for me, I wilt."

Anthony kissed Sören's cheek and rocked him some more. "You feel so cozy." Their legs braided together.

Sören sighed and snuggled deeper. He could absolutely get used to this, being held... not just anybody, but being held by Anthony, at night. Logically, he knew that going off somewhere like this with someone he'd only met last week was probably not the safest thing to do - he'd been erring on the side of caution and paranoia since waking up in an alley in Reykjavik one Sunday morning a little less than two years ago. But it felt incredibly safe, here and now, that feeling like he'd known Anthony forever even though they were still almost strangers. Something had sparked between them and built a lovely fire.

"Oh, Sören, I have a question," Anthony mumbled, sounding half-asleep, yet whatever was on his mind prevented him from going under just yet.

"Mm?"

"What kind of cake and ice cream do you like?"

"Yes?"

Anthony laughed, throaty from sleepiness - Sören made a little noise, wishing they both weren't too tired for sex. "Is that going to be your answer every time I ask you a question about your preferences?"

Sören laughed too. "Depends on what you're asking. I don't know, I just... like variety. I like men, I like women. I like sex. I like all different kinds of music. I like... all different kinds of cake and ice cream."

Anthony laughed harder. "You realized you just described sex, drugs, and rock and roll, except... instead of drugs, it's cake." More laughter. "Sex, cake, and rock and roll."

"That's my idea of living dangerously." Sören laughed too. "That's a walk on the wild side right there."

"That's also a sign we should go the fuck to sleep, because this shouldn't be as funny as it is."

You dork. Sören sighed. That only makes me lo- Sören swallowed hard. Like you more.

Sören's heart raced for a minute. It was too soon to be saying he loved Anthony, and that terrified him. But there it was. And he didn't have to say or do anything with that feeling yet. Right now, he just needed to sleep. They both did. "Goodnight." They shared a little kiss. "And thank you."


_


Sören woke up and Anthony was already up. It was only eight AM, Sören hadn't gotten that much sleep with them coming in late, but it was also late enough that Sören knew Anthony had been up for awhile if he was keeping his regular schedule. Sören was also somehow not surprised Anthony was on his laptop, in a bathrobe, frowning at his screen as he typed - duty called.

Sören lay in bed for a moment looking out the panoramic window of the penthouse suite at the bright blue sky and the Paris skyline, letting it sink in. After only ever having been to England besides Iceland, he was indeed waking up on the morning of his twenty-seventh birthday in Paris.

"Oh, good, I was about to wake you," Anthony said, coming over to give Sören a little kiss. "Room service is on its way."

"Oh. Takk." Sören yawned, stretched, and returned the kiss.

Sören got up to go to the bathroom and when he came back, room service had arrived. Sören's face lit up and he gave into a peal of giddy, hysterical laughter when he saw their breakfast was pieces of rich chocolate cake served with generous scoops of coffee ice cream and whipped cream.

"Oh my god, we're having cake and ice cream for breakfast?" Sören gave a happy little squeak. He felt self-conscious about all these stupid noises he was making in front of a barrister, but Anthony just kissed the tip of his nose, smiling indulgently, which made Sören crinkle his nose and bite his lower lip in response.

"We're adults," Anthony said.

"I guess so."

"Here." Anthony put some cake on a spoon and held the fork to Sören's lips. "Happy birthday."

They took turns feeding each other spoonfuls of cake and ice cream, smiling at each other, touching, looking into each other's eyes. Sören was already starting to feel a little randy, and by the time the cake was halfway through, he was sucking sensuously on the spoon, pleased by the heat in Anthony's eyes as he watched, knowing exactly what was going through his lover's mind. A few bites later, and more teasing spoon-sucking, and Anthony gave Sören a mock stern look.

"You are a naughty boy," he said.

"Mhm." Sören sucked the spoon even more slowly and deliberately, and took a lick even though he'd sucked it mostly clean.

"No more spoon for you." Anthony smirked, and pulled off some cake with his fingers, for Sören to eat out of his hand like a pet.

He of course knew what he was getting into, because now Sören was sucking and licking his fingers as well, and when Sören fed Anthony from his fingers, Anthony teased him right back. They were both hard, and getting harder each moment, feeding each other the last bits of cake, sucking and licking each other's fingers more sensuously each time.

There was orange juice and champagne cocktails to go with the cake and ice cream, and Sören "accidentally" spilled some on Anthony, which he cleaned with his tongue. Anthony groaned, and grabbed Sören by the hair and kissed him hard. The passion of the kiss alone made Sören feel like he was about to come, going crazy with raw sexual need.

"That was lovely," Sören husked when they pulled back, breathing hard. He really was touched by the gesture - birthday cakes had been too few and far between in his life between the privations of childhood and then the intensity of his work schedule and not really having close enough connections to people. His cousin Ari had broken his regimen of healthy eating to eat cake with him for a few years in Reykjavik, but Ari had been across the ocean last year.

Anthony gave him a softer, sweet kiss. "You're lovely."

Sören felt his face flush. He gave Anthony a lingering, sensual kiss, his fingers walking down Anthony's chest and stomach towards the hard cock waiting for his attention. "There's something else I'd rather have in my mouth, though."

Sören's birthday breakfast ended with a passionate sixty-nine, the two of them hungrily worshiping each other's cocks in earnest, sucking, licking, stroking, kissing, devouring, as their hands played over each other's bodies, caressing where they'd already this soon learned they liked to be touched, teased. They came together, which felt wonderfully intimate, and they tasted good together as they kissed, holding each other.

Sören's orgasm was powerful - Anthony was talented, and Sören was very aroused by him. But as hard as he came, he still craved more. He started kissing Anthony insistently, and made a whine of protest when Anthony gently pushed him back, laughing softly.

"Now, Sören. There's a lot of Paris to see and we have limited time." Anthony gave him a mischievous look. "We can wait until later for more, and I promise, it will be worth the wait."

Sören gave another whine, but Anthony was right - Paris demanded exploring.

In what Sören thought of his "civvies" - today it was a Nine Inch Nails "Pretty Hate Machine" T-shirt over a deep navy turtleneck, faded and worn jeans, and his leather bomber, his ever-present steel-toed Doc Martens boots - he was on Anthony's arm, with Anthony flawlessly elegant in a a trenchcoat, steel blue cashmere sweater, dark blue jeans, expensive brogues that thocked on the sidewalk. They were very obviously a couple, walking around Paris hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm, and it amused Sören that they were such an odd couple, you could tell just by looking at them, but then, he knew this was a case of opposites attract.

And he was so very attracted, stealing glances at Anthony every few paces.

Their first day in Paris started with a visit to Saint Chapelle. The almost floor to ceiling stained glass windows were worth the queue, Sören's breath taken away as they walked inside. Sören kept pausing to stare and take it all in. Finally he took some pictures.

"This sort of thing makes me wish I'd taken up glasswork," Sören whispered to Anthony. "I have no time to learn that, though."

"If you like stained glass you'll love the home I grew up in. Some of the windows are stained glass. Not as magnificent as this, but still quite lovely."

That sounded like Sören was going to meet Anthony's parents at some point. That sounded serious. Sören did an internal happy dance but tried to keep calm.

Near Saint Chapelle was the famous Notre-Dame Cathedral. Sören made an excited squeak when he saw it - it was one thing to see pictures of it and another thing to see it live and in person. He made even more exuberant noises as they got closer, once again feeling self-conscious that he was being such an idiot. "Sorry," Sören said.

"You're adorable." Anthony's grip tightened on his arm. "I love seeing your joy in all of this."

"Have you ever been here before?" Sören facepalmed. "Er, that's a stupid question, you said you've been to Europe."

"It's not a stupid question, Paris isn't all of France, after all. But yes, I've been here before. My first trip here was as a teenager, my mum is an architect and she insisted I see some of the architectural marvels of the world."

"Oh wow, your mother is an architect?" Sören felt even more nervous now about showing Anthony his art.

Anthony nodded. "She designed our home. Well, hers and my dad's, now."

Again, that reminder Anthony came from money. Sören had a prickle of self-consciousness, remembering going to school in hand-me-downs from neighbors, especially "highwater pants" too short for his growing legs.

Notre-Dame in person was a transcendent experience. They walked around to appreciate the exterior, Sören taking in the towers and buttresses from different angles. Anthony had pre-booked a timeslot for climbing the tower, and Sören made more happy noises in the tower, looking at the view, feeling a bit surreal. "Wow. Wow. WOW. I'm in Notre Fucking Dame. This is an artist's wet dream." He realized there were other people around. "Meep."

Anthony's laughter rang out and he kissed Sören - not caring there were other people around. He tousled Sören's curls on the way out of the tower, smiling at him adoringly.

"If you think that was an artist's wet dream..." Anthony led them to the metro. "You'll love where we go next."

Sören screamed when he saw the glass pyramid of the Louvre. The queues were long but Anthony had a fast track advance pass so they didn't have to wait a ridiculous amount of time.

The Louvre was one of those places where Sören could spend hours if not days, but they decided to limit the Louvre visit to four hours. Sören broke down weeping when he saw the Mona Lisa in person. He felt so stupid about crying over it in public, but Anthony was understanding, pulling Sören into a fierce, tight hug when Sören finally was able to unglue himself from the painting. Sören fell apart all over again at the Venus de Milo, and when they walked away from that, Anthony kissed his tears and pulled him into a sweet kiss that made Sören want to shove him on the floor and take him right then.

Anthony opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, then thought better of it, and gave Sören a cryptic smile - Sören thought he could see a touch of longing in Anthony's eyes. He held Sören's hand tighter as they continued to walk around the museum.

There was so much to marvel at - Greek antiquities, Islamic art. Pieces of ancient history, something Sören had a keen appreciation for with all of the Viking-era history ever-present in Iceland. It also put Sören in a philosophical mood, which he reflected on as they made their way out of the Louvre.

"It's really amazing," Sören said, "the way the human impulse to create, make art, make beauty, is so consistent across ages, across cultures. It's the one thing that really unites us as a species."

Anthony nodded.

"It's so humbling, as an artist. I mean, my art is crap compared to anything in here -"

"Once again, I doubt that, Sören." Anthony traced the flames on Sören's wrist.

"But I make art anyway because I need to. It... it burns." Sören struggled for words to explain what happened to his mind when he got in "the zone". "When I see something in my mind's eye, it takes me over. It's like a fit. It's a special kind of madness, but it's one of the only things that keeps me sane."

"You know," Anthony said, "this is going to sound really strange, but in a number of ancient pantheons, the god who was the patron of artists was also frequently a healer. Like Brighid, the Celtic goddess, comes immediately to mind. There seems to be a connection there -"

Sören was delighted Anthony knew anything about that. He's smart, good. That might have been a given with his profession, but Sören tried not to assume anything about people.

"It's life." Sören struggled again to find words for it, and would even if English was his native language. "There is no life without life. Healing the body... art heals the spirit. Medicine defies death... art celebrates living. Even in its pain. Especially in its pain. We can't appreciate joy without sadness." And Sören of course wished he'd never experienced so much of what he had - the abuse of his guardians, the bullying from his peers when he was a sensitive, intelligent young boy from an obvious "trash" background, later the escape into partying and meaningless sex that got him literally dumped in an alley, not able to remember what was done to him except whatever it was hurt. "The sadness sucks, though."

Anthony's eyes darkened, and Sören knew that as much privilege as Anthony had known, he'd known heartache too.

Sören got self-conscious about his last choice of words. "The sadness sucks. God, that sounds... so dumb -"

Anthony grabbed him and kissed him hard enough to take his breath away. They both moaned into the wild, fierce kiss, the depth of what they'd just spoken to each other pulling them under, as if they were kissing and embracing with their souls, not just their bodies. When the kiss broke and their lips lingered, Sören was tempted to tell Anthony to take him back to the hotel.

Anthony had reservations for them at a Michelin-starred restaurant with prices that made Sören boggle. Sören also didn't know the first thing about French food, so he let Anthony order for them - in French, which got Sören hot and bothered again. He still wasn't entirely sure what he was eating when it was brought to them, something with goose and potatoes, but it was delicious, subtle nuances of flavor that made him slow down and actually taste his food instead of wolfing it down like he was on break or at home alone feeding himself out of exhausted hunger, about to crash for the evening.

The end of their first day in Paris was at the Eiffel Tower, which seemed rather mandatory. They watched the sunset fade into twilight and darkness from the top of the tower, kissing, touching, looking into each other's eyes between glimpses at the city of Paris. The whole wide world, it seemed to Sören, looking down at everything, everything. He'd known there was more beyond Akureyri when he moved to Reykjavik, and more beyond Reykjavik when he moved to London, but there was so much more, and he wanted it. He wanted to see the world. To live, beyond his job. To recharge his own skills as a healer by having these adventures. To fuel his art.

To strengthen the bond he was forming with this wonderful man who was spoiling him. They leaned on each other, Anthony petting Sören's curls, until Sören looked over and up at him again and they shared another hungry kiss.

It felt good to Sören to be in a place where they could be out without having to worry, remembering the shit he'd gotten in Akureyri in the early 00s before he moved to Reykjavik. Sören remarked on it as they finally left the Eiffel Tower, heading back to the hotel. "I like this. You being my boyfriend. Not having to hide."

Anthony nodded. "I was a teenager in the 90s. That was not a fun time to be gay."

"Jæja, I was a teenager for some of the 90s. I bet."

"Times are better now. Not perfect by any means, but... better."

"You said you came out to your parents in your late twenties? Was that coming out in general, or just to them?"

"A bit of both. I lost my virginity when I was 19, at school. Cambridge. It was a friend, it was... neither awful nor was it amazing. I took some time off from school following my uncle's suicide - he wanted me to see the world, so I did, in his memory, and because I needed to escape, with my grief. I found out to my surprise and delight that European men are much less inhibited and, ah, cold, than British and American men tend to be. And Scandinavian men in particular are fun." Anthony gave Sören a wicked grin.

"Jæja, Iceland is very... ah... libertine? Is that the word for it? You should have gone to Iceland." I wish we'd met sooner. But then, Sören wasn't sure that Anthony would have liked him as a med student and a fresh new doctor, a constant wreck of emotions.

"Mmm, visiting Iceland someday would be nice. Anyway, I was absolutely certain by the time I got back from Europe that I was gay. But it took longer for me to tell my parents, because. Well. It's my parents. My dad is a Tory - " Sören made a noise and Anthony did too. "Yes, yes, I know. I used to be one, when I was younger, but I'm not at all socially conservative. I held off telling my parents as long as I could get away with."

"So what prompted it? Relationship?"

Anthony nodded.

Sören was curious now - curiouser and curiouser, as if he'd fallen down a rabbit hole. "I've never been in a serious relationship, like I told you. I've had casual sex, friends with benefits... nothing more."

"So you'd never fallen in love?"

"Oh, I was in love once." Sören felt a tight ache in his chest, thinking of the grey eyes, the sweet face. Claire. "She was English, actually. We met at a pub, she was in Reykjavik for work. One of those, ah, stupid cliched love-at-first-sight things, but it was really real. And of course she never called or e-mailed me back." Sören gave a self-deprecating chuckle. "She was probably not actually interested, just being polite. I was probably too much of a dork for her."

"Her loss." Anthony's hand tightened in Sören's.

I've been in love more than once now, Sören wanted to say, but didn't. He stroked Anthony's hand instead.

"It's been awhile since my last relationship," Anthony said.

"When you say awhile..."

"Two years, roughly. I've had sex since then, obviously, but nothing I would consider relationship material until now."

"How long?"

"Not long. I've had a few other relationships, none lasted longer than a year. Most of them fizzled out, we just grew apart. The last one was ugly - he wasn't out, which I will respect for the sake of one's profession if necessary, but I found out at the end he was married to a woman, had kids and everything, so I was the other man and didn't know it, until of course, I did. I went on a bender."

"Oh god, Anthony, I'm sorry." Sören ached for him.

A rueful smile. "So am I." Anthony patted Sören. "I'm over him now. Have been for some time."

"Is it going to bother you that I'm bisexual?"

"No, you were honest about that from the beginning."

Sören stopped walking and took Anthony in his arms, wanting to reassure him. Anthony returned the hug, holding Sören tight.

As soon as they got in their hotel room, Sören and Anthony began undressing. Anthony turned on the hot tub and they got in together and spent awhile cuddling, drinking champagne. It was relaxing, all the tension in Sören's muscles from the long workweek draining out of him. Relaxation gave way to arousal, with the kissing and touching throughout the day teasing Sören enough that he was more than ready for sex.

More than ready for making love, wanting to explore those awakening feelings with being naked and vulnerable in his lover's arms.

Anthony, of course, wanted to tease Sören some more. When they got out of the hot tub and took a shower, Anthony's hands on Sören's body were slow and deliberate, kissing his neck and shoulder, amusing himself with the noises Sören made as he explored that most erogenous part of him.

Then he teased further, dimming the lights to a soft golden glow as he led Sören to the bed. He put Sade on the stereo and Sören saw that Anthony had packed vanilla-flavored massage oil, which he'd been warming in the kitchenette of their hotel suite. Anthony had Sören lay on his stomach and he proceeded to rub Sören down, kneading away the knots in his shoulders and biceps, his upper back, his lower back, his ass and the backs of his thighs. Anthony's hard cock rubbed in the crack of Sören's ass as his hands worked their magic, and Sören found he really wanted Anthony to top him, sometime. He wasn't quite ready for that, his body remembering that morning in the Reykjavik alley, but soon. When the time was right.

In the meantime, Sören moaned and sighed as Anthony worked him over like he had all the time in the world to spoil his lover. Sören also realized the vanilla-flavored oil had been deliberate, as he felt Anthony lean in to kiss and lick his shoulder blades, lips and tongue trailing down his spine, making Sören shiver and break out in gooseflesh, cock throbbing, hole twitching, wanting him more and more with each second of exquisite, delicious sensation coursing through him.

"If your art is like the ink on your back, it's not crap at all, Sören."

Those words were just as soothing, caring as his touch. Sören hoped he really meant that and when he eventually showed Anthony his work tomorrow. His eyes misted, stomach fluttering. His heart felt like it could fly when Anthony's fingers traced the birds on his back, and lingered on the scars the ink covered - Anthony could see them, and likely knew they were from his alcoholic guardians. Sören's eyes teared up harder when Anthony kissed them, reverently, fingers continuing to trace over Sören's ink, like he was worshiping Sören, committing his body to memory.

Anthony teasing the front of him was even better - and worse. Sören's moans got louder as Anthony's hands rubbed and caressed his arms, chest, stomach, his thighs and calves. His fingers "accidentally" brushed Sören's nipples and then more deliberately, playing with the aching nubs, playing with the rings, leaning in to kiss them, lick, suckle, nibble, sucking harder at Sören's cries, panting, arching to him. "Oh god, Anthony, please."

After awhile Anthony was playing with Sören's cock as he continued feasting on Sören's nipples, and when Anthony's head dove between Sören's legs to take him into his mouth, Sören let out a fierce cry. Anthony sucked slowly, sweetly, rubbing his tongue as he sucked, and he played with Sören's balls, fingers brushing the sensitive place between balls and ass. Sören grabbed Anthony's head and bucked, panting, gasping, writhing. He heard himself almost sobbing as Anthony slowly edged him closer, making "mmmmm" noises of pleasure, lust in his eyes.

Sören found himself gently fucking Anthony's mouth at the end, giving shuddery gasps, and then at last a cry of "oh god, Anthony, yes," as he let go, coming in his waiting mouth. Anthony swallowed and came up to kiss Sören fiercely, rock hard and grinding against his thigh.

They both reached for the condoms, and Anthony was quicker. "I'm tempted to say fuck it and let you breed me," Anthony rasped between kisses at Sören's neck, "but."

"No listen, as a doctor, I appreciate you being careful. We'll get tested."

Anthony nodded. "Things were scarier when I was young, dumb, and horny. I was very lucky." Then Anthony grinned. "Well, I'm still horny, and you make me stupid."

"Hi Still Horny And You Make Me Stupid -"

Anthony bit Sören's shoulder, which made Sören cry out and his cock leapt at that, which Anthony laughed at. "Well," Anthony said, petting Sören's cock, "someone has a fetish."

Sören giggled and quipped, "Who?"

Anthony grinned. "It's a mystery." He kissed Sören and then his tongue licked where he'd just bitten, soothing and arousing the skin, and he nibbled Sören's neck as they rolled a condom onto Sören's cock.

Anthony straddled Sören's hips and rode him, slowly. It had been a very long time since Sören had been ridden - indeed, Sören was usually the one to do the riding - and Sören gloried in it, watching him, touching him, being touched. It was incredibly sensual, with Sören's arousal fueled not just by the sweet vise-like grip around his cock and the silken rhythm of their bodies, but being lost in beauty, in wonder...

...in love.

He felt taken care of, tonight. He spent so much time taking care of other people, running on empty. Anthony seemed to understand that better than most, in his own line of work. And that Anthony was taking time and trouble to make his birthday this special...

Sören choked back the three little words. He sucked Anthony's fingers, tasting Anthony's precum on them, to make himself not say it, not yet, not wanting to scare him away, but god, he felt it.

When Anthony was riding him harder, Sören went from fighting off those three little words to not being able to make words at all, fighting off his own release. Watching Anthony in ecstasy, enjoying his cock as much as he did... Sören loved pleasing just as much as he loved to be pleased. And at last, when Anthony came first, as Sören wanted him to, seeing the look of what could only be described as euphoric joy on his face as he erupted made Sören come and come and come, a full-body orgasm that seemed to go on forever.

It wasn't enough. It would never be enough. Anthony lay on his back and they feverishly rolled another condom onto Sören's cock. Sören took him again, Anthony wrapping his arms and legs around him, holding Sören with all of him, the two of them kissing passionately with each thrust. A slow build, like waves, with the storm rolling in the distance, on its way.

You're ruling the way that I move
And I breathe your air
You only can rescue me
This is my prayer
If you were mine
If you were mine
I wouldn't want to go to heaven

I cherish the day
I won't go astray
I won't be afraid
You won't catch me running
You're ruling the way that I move
You take my air

You show me how deep love can be


"Oh god." Sören was almost sobbing again. He claimed Anthony's mouth again and again, like he was claiming all of him.

"Sören." Anthony kissed Sören's neck, hands sliding over Sören's back, hips rolling, urging him on faster. Not too fast, not just yet, but enough. "Sören..."

"Oh my fucking god." Sören shuddered, speeding up. Needing. Needing.

The kisses got hungrier, their hands more possessive. And finally Sören was pounding him, encouraged by Anthony's cries, Anthony's deeper kisses like he wanted to consume Sören. The bed rocked against the wall, Sören wondered if they'd get a complaint from the concierge about their noises and he didn't care. This was glorious.

Anthony came hard, looking like he'd seen God himself when he spent over Sören, making shuddery gasps that turned into deep moans, before he breathed, "Sören. Sören..."

Three thrusts and Sören gave in with a shout of "Anthony!", collapsing onto him, his whole body trembling, the pleasure almost terrifying in its intensity. No one had ever made him come like this. No one had ever made him want like this.

It was a shattering enough release that they both dozed off after a few minutes of sleepily holding and petting and kissing. In the middle of the night they woke up hungry again but were still in that drowsy haze - awake enough to consent, not so awake they wanted to get into something athletic. With sweet, sleepy kisses, Sören took them both in his hand, stroking their cocks together, and in the last few minutes, both of them trembling, breathing harder, Anthony took them out of Sören's hand and into his own, bringing them to the finish. Sören buried his face in Anthony's chest as he cried out and Anthony pet him, rocked him, legs braiding more tightly with his.

They had another sixty-nine with breakfast before they hit the city for their second day. This time they started with the Opera Garnier - they weren't going to an actual opera, but to see the building itself, which was the inspiration for "Phantom of the Opera". The tour showed them the grand theatre, the huge staircase, the chandelier and the balcony. Anthony kissed him there too, and Sören could have sung for joy.

The Musee d'Orsay was another high point, with Sören making giddy noises at the works of Monet, van Gogh, Cezanne and Renoir. The building alone was worth visiting, never mind the masterpieces within.

They strolled along the Left Bank after the museum, holding hands, kissing. They passed by an elegant older woman with hair dyed black in a bob, wearing a red coat, red lipstick and dark glasses, carrying a Louis Vuitton bag, who smiled and waved as if she knew them. Anthony and Sören paused, and the woman came over and said in a French accent so heavy as if to be comical, "It is so good to see two people so much in love. I just needed to say that to you, how beautiful the two of you are together."

Anthony took the woman's hand and kissed it. "Vos mots me touchent et une appréciation de la beauté vous a gardé belle, madame."

"Oh, bah, I am old enough to be your mother." She was clearly relishing the attention, and Sören was amused by it. She beamed at Sören, and then she turned back to Anthony and she said, "Prenez soin de celui-ci, oui? Il a quelque chose de différent en lui, quelque chose de spécial. Je pense que vous avez une idée de ce que je veux dire, peut-être." She quickly added, "Je l'ai vu pleurer au Louvre. Son feu brûle profondément."

"Je suis d'accord. C'est très bientôt dans notre relation, mais aussi étrange que cela puisse paraître, je pense avoir trouvé "celle-là"." Anthony looked at Sören and tousled his curls.

"Très bien." The woman waved as she began to stroll off. "Have a wonderful day, you two."

Sören raised an eyebrow at Anthony and said, "I have no idea what was any of that you just said, but it sounds sexy as hell."

Then Sören realized Anthony hadn't contradicted the Frenchwoman when she remarked on them being in love - at least not what he could understand in English - and Sören hadn't denied it, either. He still hesitated to say I love you, feeling shy, still wary. But the giddy flush of love made him giggle as Anthony pulled him closer, as they resumed walking along the Left Bank.

They had another expensive dinner out, with wine, and Anthony played footsie with him under the table again. Sören was feeling hornier and hornier, it taking every ounce of his restraint to not throw Anthony on top of their table and fuck him for all of Paris to see. He said as much when they left the restaurant. "I wanted to take you on the table."

"Oh my god, Sören." Anthony turned beetroot and his eyes twinkled. Then he leaned in, kissed Sören, and husked, "I wouldn't have stopped you."

"God." Sören giggled and kissed him back. "You could get me in real trouble with the law, Anthony Wyatt-Jones."

"I think I know a barrister who could defend you."

Sören snorted and gave him a playful shove, and Anthony ruffled Sören's hair and kissed him deeply. They made out the entire taxi ride back to the hotel, Sören feeling like a horny teenager again, and when they got in the hotel room Anthony dropped to his knees, yanked down Sören's jeans and boxer-briefs, and blew him right there just as he'd done in the supply closet earlier that week.

After he climaxed Sören dragged Anthony to bed and returned the favor, with Anthony being so aroused from going down on Sören that he came within minutes, crying out Sören's name over and over again as he lost control. That aroused Sören, but Anthony was going to need time to recharge, and Sören was perfectly content snuggling with him - he found he liked the afterglow cuddling as much as he liked sex.

He'd hoped Anthony would be wrecked enough from his orgasm to forget about Sören's art for awhile, but then, before Sören could doze off a little, Anthony started poking him, like he was a big kid wanting attention. "Sören. Did you bring it?"

"Bring what," Sören mumbled.

"Your sketchbook."

Sören made a noise.

"Awwww, Sören, come on, I want to see..."

He sounded so boyish right then that Sören had to indulge him. Jesus, it's like he's my little brother, even though he's older. Sören grabbed the sketchbook out of his satchel and sat up with Anthony, leaning on him. "I feel really stupid about showing this after we were in the bloody Louvre and Musee d'Orsay -"

Anthony shot him a filthy look and snatched the sketchbook out of Sören's hands like it belonged to him. He hissed like a cat, and it was so comical that Sören doubled over, wheezing. Then he sobered when Anthony flipped it open and began leafing through. Not reacting - ever the courtroom professional outside of the courtroom, playing his cards close to his chest. But finally he looked at Sören with something like awe in his eyes.

"Sören. Your work is fucking incredible."

"Oh, Jesus Christ, Anthony -" Sören ran a nervous hand through his curls.

Anthony grabbed Sören's face and kissed him hard. He began to flip back through the sketchbook to show Sören a few that stood out at him. "The detail in these is... it's remarkable. These flowers. That bird." He smiled fondly. "The faeries and elves."

"You don't think it's stupid?"

"Sören Sigurdsson, I swear if you call your art 'crap' or 'stupid' one more fucking time."

Sören couldn't help laughing at the steel in him, and felt a frisson of arousal at the same time.

Then Anthony flipped to a colored pencil portrait Sören had done of his brother, catching a falling star from the sky.

"That's my brother Dag. Twin brother."

"His personality comes off in this portrait almost like I know him."

"And that's my sister Margrét." Sören swallowed hard as Anthony thumbed to another page and lingered there. He had turned Margrét into a Valkyrie with a winged stallion.

"The one who was murdered."

Sören nodded. "She was a trans woman. She was stabbed to death -"

"Jesus." Anthony pinched the bridge of his nose. "I'm so sorry, Sören. I don't know why people have to be so..." He struggled to find the words. "So fucking hateful."

Sören took Anthony's hand and kissed it.

"I see some very dark things in my line of work," Anthony said, looking off into the distance. "There are days when I have genuinely wondered if there is more evil than good in the world." Then he looked at Sören. "But you. Shine so brightly."

"You barely know me." Those words were directed as much at himself, falling for Anthony like he was.

"I already know more than you think I do. I watch. I observe. And you're not exactly a hard one to figure out. Like you crying in the Louvre yesterday. I'd wanted to make you happy, bringing you to Paris, when you told me you're an artist in your spare time I thought you might appreciate something like that, but I wasn't expecting to see..." Anthony made a vague hand gesture, looking for the right word. "Your soul, opened up."

"And what did you see?"

"I saw fire." Anthony took Sören's chin in his hand and his thumb traced Sören's full lips, eyes probing. "I saw light."

He kissed Sören hard, and put Sören's sketchbook off to the side. "Your work is beautiful." Anthony's fingers traced down from Sören's lips to his heart. "Who you are, is beautiful, and god help me, I need you." He grabbed Sören and kissed him even harder than before.

Sören took Anthony on his back, sweet and slow, lost in a dreamy haze of sensuality, melting, teasing, not able to stop touching, as if they were long-lost lovers reunited, hungering for each other's skin, needing the connection to last as long as possible. Kissing and kissing, eating each other alive. And at last Anthony kissed Sören's neck and rasped, "Take me hard, Sören. Show me fire."

Sören bit his neck and drove into him with abandon, Anthony's legs on his shoulders. He gave it as long as Anthony could take it - and he could take a good punishing for an impressively long time. When Anthony lost control, screaming Sören's name, Sören spent with a hoarse shout, laughing and crying as his body heaved, fingers and toes curling involuntarily.

"Sören." Anthony grabbed him and held him, rocked him. "Oh my god, Sören, that was..." He sighed. "Transcendent."

"What you said," Sören breathed, and giggled uncontrollably.

After they cuddled and dozed off, they woke up awhile later and took another soak in the hot tub. They ended up making out in the hot tub and stroking each other to climax there, and when they got back in bed they rubbed cock to cock, kissing, still hungry but sated enough to crave something more slow and sensual. Watching their cocks shoot together made Sören feel like the entire universe was exploding out of him, continuing to twitch and moan until sleep claimed him again.

It rained in Paris on Sunday which was just as well because their grand finale was spending the entire day in bed making love for hours, in different positions - Anthony riding Sören... Anthony on his back with a leg hooked over Sören's shoulder... the two of them laying on their sides sucking each other... Sören on his knees, taking Anthony doggy style, fucking him hard... later, Anthony on his stomach with Sören laying on Anthony's back and taking him from behind much more gently, kissing his neck and shoulder, tilting Anthony's face so they could kiss, holding hands... laying face to face, kissing, petting, rubbing cock to cock. There was something absolutely perfect, to Sören's way of thinking, about them getting sweaty and cum-soaked together as the rain fell outside, curling up between orgasms to look out the penthouse view at the city, still achingly gorgeous in the rain.

They showered and stroked each other to another climax before they had to leave for their flight back to London. Sören blew a kiss into the wind and rain as they reached the airport, and he looked out the window at takeoff, blowing a kiss at the Eiffel Tower before it disappeared into the fog.

Anthony invited Sören to spend the night with him and take him to work in the morning, with laundry facilities at his flat so Sören could wash and re-wear the scrubs he'd left London in. He was in no rush to get back, driving slowly in the rain, and when Sade came on the radio it reminded Sören of their lovemaking on Friday night and he found himself kissing Anthony, then kissing his neck, getting Anthony hard while he was driving. Sören had never done anything like this before, but he leaned over, got Anthony's cock out, and started sucking him off right then. When Anthony's driving started to be affected, swerving just a little - not enough to be dangerous, but enough to cause him alarm - he pulled over, and once he was safely pulled over he grabbed Sören's head and leaned back in his seat, shuddering and moaning. Sören sucked him to an ejaculation, savoring the taste of him as he swallowed it down, kissing Anthony and letting him taste himself.

"Jesus, Sören."

"You've never gotten road head?"

"That would be a no."

"I've never given road head, but I wanted to for you."

"God." Anthony laughed, still looking dazed and happy from the orgasm. "What's gotten into me?"

"My cock, for starters."

Anthony laughed harder. "Incorrigible."

"Takk." Sören reveled in it, loving that smile on Anthony's face as he resumed driving them back to Kingston upon Thames. This was what he wanted - he'd just come back from the most magical weekend of his life and he knew, somehow, there was even greater magic to come. They belonged.

Chapter Text

A modern day warrior
Mean, mean stride
Today's Tom Sawyer
Mean, mean pride

Though his mind is not for rent
Don't put him down as arrogant
His reserve, a quiet defense
Riding out the day's events
The river


Sören's last job of the day was a ventriculo-peritoneal shunt. He and Colin were currently attaching a valve to a proximal catheter, two sets of hands working together with precision, like they were playing a musical instrument, but that instrument was the human body.

What you say about his company
Is what you say about society
Catch the mist, catch the myth
Catch the mystery, catch the drift

The world is, the world is
Love and life are deep
Maybe as his skies are wide


Sören had done countless procedures now and no matter how many times he'd operated he still felt a quiet sense of awe that he could go in, cut open someone's brain and spine, twiddle around, and the person would be OK afterwards. He was fascinated by the marvel that was man, a machine that could be broken, taken apart and put back together.

On the occasion that Sören talked to strangers and was asked what he did for a living, the most common question he got about neurosurgery was if he was grossed out, or afraid of blood. Sören was relieved that Anthony hadn't asked him that, his partner seemed to have good enough sense to understand that if those things had been problems Sören wouldn't be in that profession. What Sören found gross, and fearful, was not the blood, not the open, raw meat and going inside to poke around, but the spectre of death hanging over people, and all too often, people too young to die, or people with too much life to give up on life. Sören understood that to Anthony, every client he had was potentially someone like his uncle, and to Sören, every patient he had was potentially his mamma. Every person he opened up, unraveled and knit back together, they were somebody to someone - parent, child, lover, friend.

Sören had felt so powerless the day his mamma had a bad headache, lay down for a nap, and never woke up again. He couldn't save her, but the strength of his will pushed him to do what he could for others.

To exorcise that spectre of death and re-quicken the spark of life... that was magic. At times, the artist in Sören would see in his mind's eye visions not unlike the paintings of Alex Grey, the human body electric with millions of wires of energy, color and light. His tools, his fingers, touched the weave of worlds within them, the brain the house of the soul, the patient on a journey on his table like the mythological journeys through the underworld and back. Sören was not a religious or superstitious man but as an artist he appreciated the poetry of mythology, its symbolism, fragments of a deeper, greater truth, and when Sören was operating he rather understood why in ancient times the healers were shamans. There was a magic in this, one that was hard to put into words but one that he felt, and each time he did an operation he was tapping into that magic, defying death once more, hallowing that weave of worlds inside each patient with a cleansing fire, a light that held back the darkness this time. Not today.

It was a magic that didn't just fix whatever was broken, here on his table, but it helped to heal that wound inside him, ripped open the day his mamma died. It would never be fully healed, Sören knew that, but it was better than it was, years ago.

When Sören had decided to go into neurosurgery in particular, knowing it was one of the most taxing specialties, he had heard it described as a calling, with the kind of brutal hours neurosurgeons put in, working on some of the most delicate, complex procedures in medicine. Sören understood that concept each time he operated. Some people had religion and a Higher Power, this was Sören's religion, this was what he dedicated his devotion to. Life.

His day was not quite done when the shunt was complete. Now he had a scan, and then he met with the patient's family to go over what he could of what he'd just done, necessities of aftercare and followup, and was ready to answer any questions they had. The discussions with family or partners was one of the best and worst parts of this job - best when it gave some good news that they badly needed to hear, worst if the family blamed him for what was outside his control, and especially when they misunderstood that there were limits to the miracle work that could be done and often the operating table was the beginning of the road back, not the end. Nobody liked to hear that there was going to be more scans, therapy, and possibly no such thing as "good as new", only a new normal of what was possible. Mercifully, today Sören had a family who was more grateful than entitled, thanking him profusely for his work, and it made Sören smile on his way out of the meeting, feeling relief at their relief, hope at their hope.

After Sören and Colin scrubbed out, Colin bro-fisted him. "You want a ride back to Bromley, mate?" Colin asked. "You look dead on your feet."

Sören laughed softly. "This is going to sound strange, but I like taking the Tube. It's just... a routine I have, I zone out. And it's raining. Those last few minutes walking home in the rain, it... it feels good." Sören felt a little sheepish, but he always got overheated when he operated, as if he were wielding fire, even though the operating theatre was climate controlled.

"I get it." Colin nodded.

"Thank you for offering, though! I'll see you tomorrow, já?"

"Yeah. You ready for hell?"

"God, about as ready as I'll ever be."

"Tomorrow" was technically "tonight", starting at 11 PM, with Colin and Sören both scheduled for an overnight shift that would last until 11 AM, realistically more like 1-2 PM. Sören didn't always work overnight but at least once a fortnight he'd have to pull an all-nighter. Colin and Sören joked about these shifts being "hell" because these were when the emergencies came in, with fewer staff to handle them - the overnight shifts felt more taxing than usual because they were.

It was one in the afternoon now - Sören having a shorter work day than usual today was to account for the fact that he'd be going back to work in ten hours. Rather than spending his evening with Anthony, he'd be going to his place in Bromley and basically eating and going to bed. But Anthony was going to call him when he had a break from work at his chambers later this afternoon, and Sören was so very looking forward to the sound of his voice. He had that funny feeling in his chest and stomach just thinking about it.

He thought about calling Anthony first, but he didn't want to interrupt, and he didn't want to come off as needy, desperate, clingy. Not that Anthony had given any indicator that Sören was behaving in such a way - just the opposite, Anthony was very attentive and warm and he basked in Sören's attention and warmth. But Sören still felt self-conscious about how hard he'd fallen. He still hadn't worked up enough courage to tell Anthony he was in love, which Sören realized was a holdover from his hookup days where signs of attachment were the antithesis of casual sex and would result in him being ghosted if he wanted more than a one-night stand, like an occasional fuckbuddy. This wasn't casual, especially not what they'd shared in Paris just over a week ago. Sören still worried about scaring Anthony away with things moving too fast, escalating with intensity. "You're too intense" was something Sören had heard more than once back in his hookup days in Iceland when he wanted cuddles, wanted raw, primal, insatiable passion. Sören knew Anthony was drawn to his fire, but nonetheless he didn't want Anthony to feel burned, with Anthony's own schedule being what it was, the adjustments he was having to make to his own life to make space for someone else.

On the Tube ride to Bromley, Sören put in his earbuds and began the process of decompressing from work, listening to a random-shuffle playlist of prog metal. He began to enter a lightly meditative state as "Rosemary" by Deftones came on, in the minutes before his stop.

There's no sound
But the engine's drone
Our minds set free
To roam

Time shifting
We discover the entry
To other planes

Our minds bend
And our fingers fold
Entwined, we dream
I know

Time shifting
We discover the entry
To other planes

Stay with me
As we cross the empty skies
Come sail with me

We slow down
As the engines stall
Our eyes catch sea
Explode

Time shifting
We discover the entry
To other planes

Time shifting
As we collide with the energy
In other worlds

Stay with me
As we cross the empty skies
Come sail with me
We play in dreams
As we cross the space and time
Just stay with me


Sören was in enough of a daze that he bumped into someone on his way off the train, hard enough for Sören to fall over into a puddle. Sören managed to break his fall so he wouldn't get injured, but still ended up getting jostled and drenched. He was startled enough to need his inhaler, and as he puffed he got bumped again.

There goes my good mood. At least hearing from Anthony would redeem this afternoon.

Sören went in his flat, changed into pajamas, scrubbed in, and set to work transferring food that had been in the slow cooker into a bowl for eating now and containers to fridge and reheat later. It was nothing fancy - a homemade stew with beef and vegetables, but it was good on a chilly, rainy day like this.

After Sören ate, he went to his leather duster hanging up to retrieve his cell phone in anticipation of Anthony's call. And then he found that his phone wasn't in his coat. At all. Sören recalled the fall in the puddle, then being jostled again as he was using his inhaler.

"Tíkasonur, blóðugur móðurfokk helvíti."

He was already in his pajamas, and would have to put his clothes back on and go for a walk on the chance that the phone was even still there - he had strong doubts that it was, and he knew with his luck he might have lost it even before that, maybe on the Tube or at the hospital. Meanwhile, it wasn't simply that he absolutely had to get to bed soon if he was going to be functional for his overnight shift, but even with a shorter work day today he was exhausted and his body needed to crash anyway.

Getting changed to go down to the chip shop or another place nearby and asking to use the phone wouldn't work because he hadn't memorized Anthony's number - he had too much information in his head to keep straight, things like phone numbers and e-mails had to be plugged in somewhere or he couldn't trust himself to remember. And he hadn't thought to ask for Anthony's e-mail, they'd as yet only communicated by phone. Sören was sure he could probably Google Anthony Wyatt-Jones and get an e-mail address, but then he wasn't sure if it was wise to shoot off something personal on his work e-mail.

"Ég hef ekki fokking tíma fyrir þetta... og hann mun halda að ég sé að hunsa hann..." Sören facepalmed and hit himself in the forehead. "Fokk, fokk, FOKK, skít, guð fjandinn, ég þurfti ekki þetta kjaftæði!"

Sören knew that while Anthony had common sense and might wonder if Sören had just passed out or perhaps lost his phone, there was also a real potential for Anthony to wonder if he was being ignored, and for that to create problems between them. Sören let out a wordless grit-teeth scream, angry with himself for losing his phone. I've fucked everything up now.

And there was nothing he could do about it right now. Already, he was going to be running under eight hours of sleep if he went to bed and fell asleep immediately. Sören continued cursing under his breath as he folded out his couch into a bed, made it, and got in.

I'll see what I can do to fix this tomorrow after work. Telling himself that gave him back enough of a tiny sliver of control, so he could go to sleep.


_



The overnight shift was even more chaotic than Sören and Colin had feared, and as upset as Sören was when he got into work, still fretting about his lost phone and Anthony's reaction, his thoughts were quickly taken over by emergencies coming in that had to be handled. It was close to one PM when Sören and Colin were finished, and just before Colin could head out, something from a conversation Sören had with Anthony came crashing into his head. Making Sören feel frustrated that he couldn't remember numbers but he could remember this.

"Colin, wait up a minute?"

Colin paused.

"This is going to seem a weird question, but, ah, where does your sister work?"

"Which one?"

"Diana."

Colin laughed. "Why? You stalking my sister, mate?" He playfully punched Sören in the arm.

"Ha ha, no." Sören pursed his lips. "Your sister is my boyfriend's EA or whatever it's called."

Colin's jaw dropped and his eyes widened. "That's who you're dating? Holy shit, mate."

"Jæja, I'm dating Anthony Wyatt-Jones."

"Jesus." Then Colin raised an eyebrow. "You're dating this bloke and you don't know where he works?"

"Obviously I know he's a barrister but I like... never... asked. It hasn't been that long we've been dating, just a couple weeks. Usually when we're together we talk about other stuff. Or we... you know. Don't talk."

Colin facepalmed. "Oh god, I shouldn't have asked that, I walked right sodding into that."

Sören grinned, not able to resist. "Emphasis on the sodding -"

"Yeah, piss off." Colin grinned, rolling his eyes.

"Anyway, I need to go down -" Sören continued the cheekiness, unable to help himself, because Colin was just as bad sometimes where women he was dating were concerned. They were professional enough to only be like this in private moments and not in front of other colleagues, especially not ladies, not wanting them to feel sexually harassed in any way, but it was one reason why Sören and Colin got along so well, they had a similar raunchy sense of humor.

"Good god, Sören."

"I need to go to his office because I lost my fucking phone yesterday and missed a call from him and I don't know how he'll take that."

And then Colin gave Sören a long, pointed look. "Wow, mate, you have it bad for this bloke, yeah?"

Sören looked down and nodded, face on fire.

Colin slapped his shoulder. "I wouldn't worry too much, Sören, these things happen, if you explain it to him he'll know you're telling the truth. He'll just know, trust me."

Sören realized that yes, Anthony would know, being well used to spotting lies and half-truths and evasions in the courtroom, but it felt comforting to hear it from someone whose sister worked closely with the man and likely had things to say about him.

"And yeah, Diana works at Lincoln's Inn Fields, in Temple, you want to go to Garden Court Chambers."

"Takk, Colin, you're a lifesaver." Sören raised an eyebrow. "One more thing... I need directions. Written down, if possible."

Armed with directions, Sören took the Tube. As he approached the law offices, he felt self-conscious about being in a place full of suits when he was coming fresh off of work in his scrubs - at least he wasn't still wearing a cap, and the little flashlight that he had to wear on his cap during surgery, though he and Colin made jokes about how they got to wear "the cool hats".

At the reception desk Sören didn't have to wait long. "Hi, I'm here to see Anthony Wyatt-Jones?"

"Do you have an appointment, Mr..."

"Er, no, I don't, but it's important. Urgent."

He was given a dirty look, but asked to sit down nonetheless. Sören's anxiety mounted at the expensive leather couch, the wood and glass all around, elegant, making him feel even more out of place in his duster and scrubs, his mop of curls a damp mess from the wet weather after being unleashed from the man bun he wore at work. He saw the crest in the lobby, and his eyes locked onto the motto: Do right, fear no-one.

A frisson went down Sören's spine. That's my Anthony.

And then a prickle: My Anthony? My Anthony. I'm thinking of him as mine now. Oh yes, I have it bad.

Sören did have to wait a bit of time, and then it wasn't Anthony who came out, but a pretty woman with brown skin, expressive hazel-brown eyes in a heart-shaped face, dark curls in a tight, sleek ponytail, a slim figure in a navy suit with a skirt and a white blouse, showing off calves that made Sören stare for a few seconds. This had to be Diana Traynor.

"Hello, you're here to see Mr. Wyatt-Jones?"

"Yes, hi... you're Diana, right?"

The woman gave him a "do I know you" look. "You are..."

"Sören Sigurdsson."

"Oh! You're that Sören, you know my brother!"

"Oh shi - er, oh, darn..." Sören saw Diana fight off a grin at the near-slip. "Does Colin talk about me?"

"He's mentioned you a few times. Always nice things. Says you're a funny guy."

Their eyes met, Diana flashed him a lovely smile, and if this had been a few months or even a few weeks ago, Sören would have gone against his usual shyness and caution and asked Diana to dinner or to have a drink and see where it went from there. He realized then that yes, he did crave a woman's touch sometimes, and he didn't want to take the risk of asking Anthony for an open relationship after Anthony's experience with being "the other man", so he was looking at being strictly gay in practice for the foreseeable future, even though he still found women attractive and felt desire for them. That was something he was going to have to live with, but... he'd do it for Anthony.

God, I really am in love with him. Jesus.

"Right, so, ah." Sören ran a nervous hand through his curls. He didn't know if Anthony had mentioned to Diana that he was dating Sören, and Sören got the distinct sense that was not something to discuss out here in the open regardless.

"Right, let me check his diary for when he'll be free and I'll be back in a moment?"

Sören huffed, not liking there was a possibility he'd be stuck here until Anthony got off work for the day, not knowing what his plans were after work, or he'd have waited. "I really need to see him today. It's kind of urgent. Please tell him Sören Sigurdsson is here, he'll understand just from my name."

"All right. I'll be back in just a minute."

"A minute" was more like five, but it wasn't as long as he had been waiting. And when Diana came back she made the "come along" gesture. Sören rose from the couch and followed Diana down a hall, past a series of doors. Sören's heart pounded with each one, pit of his stomach rising, afraid that somehow, Anthony would assume he'd been ignored and it would be all over...

Uh, no, idiot, he's a defense barrister. He's letting you present your side of things. Chill.

It was even the slightest possibility that things could go badly that worried Sören - desperately not wanting to lose him - and beneath that, the worry that Anthony had felt ignored, had been wondering what happened... Sören feeling awful that Anthony would be upset at something he did, even by accident, not wanting to cause him pain...

Fuck. Shit. I love him.

And there they were. Anthony was in an office with wood paneling, his desk long and made of dark wood, his chair high-backed leather. He was in a charcoal grey suit, white shirt, grey tie, ever the consummate professional. Diana gave a nod and then as she left Sören there, she closed the door behind her, giving them a knowing look on her way out.

"Sören." Anthony looked him up and down, his expression neutral, his voice neutral. "This is unexpected."

"I lost my phone," Sören said.

"Oh." And then Anthony's face and voice were less neutral. His eyes were suddenly too bright. "Oh."

"Oh god, Anthony, you thought I was ignoring you?"

Anthony closed his eyes and nodded, saying nothing.

Sören came right over to the desk. He put his arms around Anthony, pulled him close, and then he was mindful of the fact that his leather duster was wet from outside. "Er, I need to take this off..."

Anthony gestured to a coatrack in the corner of the office, where his own trenchcoat was hanging. Sören pulled off his duster, hung it up, and then he came back to Anthony and gave him a fierce, tight hug, cradling Anthony's head in his chest, petting his hair. He heard that sharp exhale, the little tremble that was a tell Anthony was crying a little.

"Oh my god. Anthony."

"Shit." Anthony pulled back, looking down, his cheeks pink, his eyes damp. "I... I don't cry, Sören. I don't cry, and I especially do not cry at work."

"I'm sorry -"

"No, it's." Anthony wiped his eyes with the heel of his hand. He looked up at Sören then. "I didn't know why you weren't answering your phone. I was afraid I'd lost you, and -"

Sören grabbed Anthony and kissed him. Sören's cock woke up at the kiss, twinging again at the moan Anthony made into the kiss, quivering against him. Sören's arms tightened around him even more, Sören kissing Anthony deep and hard and hungry, as if he were claiming him.

"I feel like an idiot for worrying so much," Anthony said. "I know these things happen. I just..."

"Shhhh." Sören kissed him again. And again. "I worried you were going to think something was wrong. I don't memorize phone numbers, I don't have your e-mail, and with me working overnight last night and being so bloody exhausted when I got home I didn't want to go back out and try to find my phone, and I felt terrible, I didn't want to upset you, but I didn't know what to do when I just needed to get to bed..."

"Sören." Now Anthony was the one initiating the kiss. "It's all right. I'm not angry."

Sören desperately needed some levity, overcome by emotion. Protectiveness. Wanting to be reassuring, nurturing. Falling in love with him all over again and those green eyes, the sensitive heart that he tried to shield from the world... "Hi Not Angry. I'm Sör-"

Anthony kissed him harder, and swatted Sören's ass. Sören's cock jolted at that, and he felt his blood boil. Mad with lust, not thinking, Sören found himself getting on his knees and under Anthony's desk. Before either of them knew what was happening, Sören had Anthony's cock out, hard for him, and Sören looked up at him with hungry eyes, searching to make sure Anthony wanted this, was OK with it. Anthony grabbed Sören's curls, guiding his head towards his cock, and Sören's own cock throbbed in response. But before Sören could start sucking, he looked into Anthony's eyes and he finally said it. "I love you." Then his lips wrapped around Anthony's cock.

Anthony gasped, shuddered, and he ground out, "I love you too, Sören."

Oh god, yes. Yes. YES... Sören's heart soared. He started sucking the cock in his mouth like he was starving for it, like his life depended on giving this man the best pleasure he could. "Mmmmmmmmm," Sören hummed, a happy noise at the truth being laid bare.

Between Sören's hunger and passion, and Anthony's need, Anthony only lasted a few minutes. He was quieter than usual by virtue of being at work, only giving a little groan here and there, but when he came he let out that shuddery gasp Sören had heard him make during orgasm before, which Sören found incredibly sexy, especially with Anthony twitching, the rapture on his face as he gave in. Sören was turned on enough by sucking him, watching and listening to him come, tasting him, that as soon as Anthony was finished Sören took out his own cock and began to furiously masturbate right there, on his knees in Anthony's office. Sören came in record time, collecting the pooling seed into his shirt hem which was going to be washed anyway. Enough of his cum got on his hand that when he stopped shaking and needed to get up from the floor, Anthony paused him and licked and sucked Sören's hand clean, so sensually, with such heat in his eyes that Sören was tempted to take him on his desk.

As hot as that thought was, Sören knew that Anthony would get vocal and that was probably a bad idea, not to mention that the man probably didn't keep lube in his office. But he should start keeping it... just in case.

Anthony seemed to know exactly what Sören was thinking. "Sören, you're too tempting."

"Takk. So are you." And then Sören pulled him close again, letting Anthony rest his head on him, rubbing Anthony's shoulders and upper back. "I should probably go before we get in trouble."

Anthony patted him and looked up. "What are you doing tonight?"

"Sleeping." Sören chuckled.

"What are you doing before that? I'd like to come over."

"Come... over... to my place? In Bromley?" Sören was in disbelief. He lived in a studio, it wasn't terrible but it was small, small enough that he slept on a couch that folded out into a bed.

Anthony nodded. "It would save you time, rather than having to pack an overnight bag and travel from your place to mine. We'd have more time, you'd get more rest."

Sören took a deep breath. He was worried about Anthony seeing his tiny, somewhat shabby little place, but he nodded. "All right. If you truly don't mind -"

"I want to see you." Their eyes held. "I miss you." Anthony reached up to stroke Sören's face. "I love you."

Sören's heart soared again. As tired as he was, he could have done cartwheels around the entire chambers, screaming for joy, if it wouldn't make a scene. "I love you too."

After Sören put his duster back on, Anthony walked him to the door of his office, stealing a kiss just before he opened the door. "I'll be there roughly around six."

"OK."

"What would you like to eat?"

"You."

Anthony laughed and turned pink, and Sören laughed too, before kissing the tip of his nose - Anthony was adorable when he was bashful, and it made Sören love him more. "Well, I made stew last night but if I don't have to eat the same thing two nights in a row... you mind bringing over fish and chips?"

"No." Anthony gave him a hug. "I'll see you then, love."

Sören was grinning from ear to ear on his way out. He tried to sober as he passed the receptionist, not wanting to give it away, but the grin came back as soon as he stepped outside.

Sören didn't go straight home, stopping at one of the stores of his cell phone provider to buy a new phone and get his plan transferred to the new phone, complete with keeping the same number. He had to charge it up when he got in, and set about getting in his red plaid flannel pajamas and making the place tidy, once again feeling bad because of how spartan his place was, apart from some art on the walls. He'd come from Iceland to England with exactly one suitcase, almost all of that clothing, and moved into an efficiency where buying furniture wasn't necessary. He'd accumulated very little in the way of personal belongings since then save some art prints, his television and stereo, and art supplies, because he wasn't home all that much - his flat was a place to eat and sleep. And now...

I want a home. This isn't a home. Sören swallowed hard.

He heard Anthony come up the steps. "It's open," Sören yelled.

Anthony walked in, bearing stargazer lilies with one hand and a bag from a chip shop with the other, with an overnight bag on the arm that carried the food. Sören ran to him to take the flowers, giving a squeak before giving Anthony a kiss. Then he went to put the flowers in Sprite and put on tea.

"I'm really sorry," Sören said as he took his place beside Anthony on the couch. "My place is, ah. It's not much."

"I came here for you," Anthony said.

Nonetheless, Sören could see him looking around, taking it in, and thought he detected a hint of sadness.

They ate together, curled up, watching a rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was nice to just be, and Sören smiled when Anthony started feeding Sören from his fingers like Sören was his pet. When they were done eating, Anthony pulled him close and pet Sören's curls, rubbed his back.

"I have something for you," Anthony said.

"Mmmm, I hope so." Sören looked up and gave him a naughty look.

Anthony turned pink, laughed and rolled his eyes, and said, "That too, brat." He produced a business card from his wallet. "Here. That has my cell and my e-mail."

"Takk. I bought a new phone, let me grab it..." Sören went to the kitchen space in the open plan studio to grab his phone off the charger. He also grabbed a bottle of beer for each of them. He groaned a little at the prospect of having to reprogram all his contacts, but for now he'd take care of this. He glanced at Anthony's business card and then his eyebrow went up at the C. ANTHONY WYATT-JONES. "Oh, Anthony's a middle name?"

"...Yes."

Sören smirked. "What does the C stand for?"

"Could You Not."

"Oh, come on. I suck your cock, I fuck you in the arse -" Anthony turned beetroot at this. "And I can't know what your real first name is?" Sören started poking him. "Come on, tell me..."

"Sören..."

"It's not Sören. That starts with S, not C."

"Brat."

"Come on." Sören poked him harder, faster. "Tell me... tell me what the C stands for..."

Anthony gave him a look.

"C is for Cookie?"

"NO," Anthony said with such commanding force that it made Sören almost spit his beer, finding Anthony's reaction ridiculous and delightful.

"Cleopatra?"

"You're hilarious." Anthony's eyes narrowed.

"Crap? Cunnilingus? Cheese?"

"Sören, I swear to God -"

"Right, it would be one of those poncy British names you lot have like Clive... Colin... Cedric..."

"None of those names are poncy, Sören."

"They're all poncy to people who aren't from England. Really, Anthony, I don't know why it's so bad you can't tell me..."

"Fine." Anthony gave him another look. "It's Cassius."

"Cass-Cassius." Sören felt his head snapping back, his lips quirking involuntarily. "Wh-what... kind of name is Cassius -"

"This is exactly why I didn't want to tell you, and why I go by my middle name."

"Cassius. Cassius..." In his mind's repository of information that he'd retained over the years while simple things like memorizing phone numbers had flown out the window, Sören struggled to figure out why that name sounded vaguely familiar to him, then it turned on like a light switch in his head. "Oh, like Muhammad Ali was Cassius Clay?"

Anthony glared.

Sören leaned in and gave him a little kiss. "I'll stop if it bothers you. I just." He giggled into his beer. "You poor dear, I don't know how your parents could see a tiny baby and decide to name it Cassius."

"I don't either."

Then Sören cocked his head to one side. "Do you go by Anthony all the time? Does anyone call you Tony?"

"Nobody calls me that."

I'll call you that once in awhile, and I'll get away with it. "Tony's a damn sight better than Cassius, though."

And then Anthony gave him a look that let him know he wasn't quite as annoyed as he was acting - as if he enjoyed the challenge that Sören presented, a good sparring of wit. "You're not really in a position to make fun of anyone's name, considering your own resembles an IKEA product."

Sören almost spat his beer. He howled and clapped appreciatively. Then he couldn't resist the troll impulse. "There are jokes about wood and inserting tab A into slot B here somewhere."

Now Anthony lost it, laughing, heaving, turning pink. "Goddammit, Sören."

They kissed, a sweet little kiss that deepened, heated. Soon they were making out on the couch, hands roaming. Anthony began to undo the buttons of Sören's pajama top, kissing and licking the exposed flesh. When his tongue lightly brushed a nipple, then lashed it, pebbling it, Sören shivered, gasped and cried out, bucking against him as his cock jolted and throbbed awake.

"Tony," Sören teased, and then said, "Anthony," at the mock stern look he was given. "This is... this is it, for what I have for a bed. It folds out, but I'm cautious about testing it with, ah, more strenuous stuff. On the couch itself, it's fine."

Anthony nodded. Sören once again got the sense that Anthony didn't know quite what to make of Sören's living situation, but the fact that he was willing to come here and spend the night at all said a lot. "Well, we can start on the couch, before you fold it out for the evening."

"All right. I hope you've got condoms and lube with you, because I don't have either here."

"I've got them, yes."

They undressed, with Anthony folding his clothes neatly on the coffee table. Sören lay back on the couch and Anthony got him ready by sucking him, kneeling on the floor as Sören had knelt on the floor of his office. "I've been thinking about this since you left chambers," Anthony husked when he let Sören's cock slip from his mouth.

"I've been thinking about... you, period." Sören swallowed hard, feeling that tight ache in his chest - a good ache. "About us." He stroked Anthony's face, pet his hair. "I love you."

"I love you too." Anthony sucked at the head of Sören's cock for a minute and then he rasped, "I really want to feel you."

They got into a position where Anthony could ride Sören on the couch without falling. As Anthony straddled Sören's hips, Sören wrapped his arms around him and pulled him into a kiss. Not breaking the kiss, Anthony sank down and they moaned together. When Sören bottomed out inside him they kissed harder, deeper, and Anthony whispered, "I love you."

"I love you." Sören kissed him again. "I will never get tired of hearing it."

"I will never get tired of saying it, or hearing you say it." Anthony began to ride, slowly. Sören's hands slid down from Anthony's back to his hips, guiding him. Sören watched his erect cock, feasted on the sight of his body, the look of lust on Anthony's face.

Their mouths met again and again, tongues swirling, playing, teasing. Their hands slid over each other, caressing, rubbing, exploring and worshiping. Anthony kept the ride languid, the two of them savoring just connecting, being together. Sören was glad that they'd mutually be getting tested soon and could likely do away with barriers then, wanting nothing to come between them. In the meantime Sören pulled him closer, held him tighter, devoured him with his eyes, loved with his touch, his kiss. And at last Anthony was riding him harder and Sören grabbed his hips and started to thrust, putting him to work, pushing them both along to that point of no return. Sören played with Anthony's cock when he started to make those telltale noises of getting close, and when Anthony called out Sören's name, erupting over him, Sören came a few seconds later, hearing himself cry out, "Anthony, ástin mín, ég elska þig."

Anthony kissed him hard - knowing somehow what those words meant. They kissed and kissed, and now Sören was crying, showing his own vulnerability in that moment of truth. Sören pulled him close and rocked him, still inside him.

After they rested for a few minutes they got up and Sören dispensed with the used condom, folded out the bed, made it up, Sören hit the lights, and after brushing teeth they got in, with Sören setting the alarm for five in the morning for both of them. Sören left a light on in the bathroom to provide them with a little bit of light in case they needed it - and because it was nice to have some light when they weren't going to sleep just yet. Sören and Anthony began kissing again as soon as Sören snuggled up next to him, and Sören smiled as he felt Anthony's hand reaching down to the stiffening cock.

The covers got peeled back as they settled into a sixty-nine, laying at each other's sides. With the urgency of mutually craving a fuck gone, they could take it slower now, sucking sweetly, lovingly. As they edged towards orgasm they were hungrier, Sören rubbing his tongue as he sucked, rewarded with Anthony doing the same. They came together, taking each other's hands as they spilled into each other's mouths, and never had it felt so intimate. When Sören came up to kiss him, petting, nuzzling, Sören felt that it was one of the most beautiful moments of his life. Their love confession that afternoon had been under imperfect circumstances with Sören losing his phone, Anthony had ended up coming over out of the imperfect circumstances of that, and Sören's flat was imperfect, not a home. And yet it was all perfect in its imperfections, accidents coming together to make something wonderful and real.

For the first time in a long time, years, well before the rape in Iceland, his sister's murder, Sören felt a return of the optimism he'd felt as a new med student. That life was an adventure again.

They tangled up together, holding each other, legs entwined.

"I like holding you," Anthony said. He'd said it before, but Sören never got tired of it.

"I love it." Sören sighed and snuggled closer, deeper. "I wish we could do this more often."

"Me too."

For a brief, flittering instant Sören thought about broaching the subject of them living together, but they'd been dating barely three weeks and it was way too soon for that - saying "I love you" might not scare Anthony away but Sören had a feeling asking to move in just might. But the ache was there, and it would solve the problem of wanting to see each other more often... a lost phone wouldn't potentially be such a disaster if they were under the same roof.

The fact that he already felt like this - so sure, so right... Sören felt the tears about to come on again. Sören needed to calm down, so he went to his default coping mechanism, humor. "I love you, Muhammad Ali."

"I love you, IKEA."

Chapter Text

It was Thursday, December fifteenth. Sören and Anthony had spent the late afternoon and most of the evening together at Anthony's flat, and after a passionate romp they were showering together before Sören had to go in for an overnight shift. Sören didn't want to go, but at least they'd have Friday night, all of Saturday, and part of Sunday to be with each other.

They lingered in the shower, holding each other under the spray, kissing. Though they'd made love to several orgasms earlier, they were hard for each other again, hard cocks sliding together as they kissed. At last Anthony pushed Sören back against the shower wall, took them both into his hand and stroked them, kissing more deeply and insistently than before, and a few minutes later Sören came with a cry, Anthony with a deep groan.

Toweling off and getting changed, in the bedroom, Sören and Anthony kept looking regretfully at the clock, the calendar, each other.

"Can I make you some tea before you go?" Anthony asked.

"I have a routine of getting coffee with Colin at the hospital cafe before our overnight shift starts. Usually I'd say yes to the extra caffeine but I'm more keyed up than usual so that's a bad idea." Sören pursed his lips.

"I know the overnight shifts are rough." Anthony gave him a sympathetic frown and a ruffle of Sören's damp curls.

"It's not just that. It's... what happens when I get off work tomorrow."

Anthony and Sören had mutually went to a clinic for a battery of tests earlier that week, and they had an appointment to go in tomorrow afternoon, once they were both done with work, and get their test results. If it was all clear, they were going to stop using condoms. Sören was on the one hand very eager to bareback with the man he loved, on the other hand he had anxiety about his own test results.

"I'm sure we're both fine," Anthony said.

Sören nodded. "You're probably right. It's... you know me. Doctor. Force of habit."

The studied look Anthony gave him told Sören that Anthony suspected there might be more to the worry than Sören being a doctor - and indeed there was, though Sören had yet to tell him about what happened in Reykjavik. Anthony wisely changed the subject, sensing Sören's discomfort. "I'm honestly more worried about it being Christmas next week than I am about our test results," Anthony said.

"Oh god." Sören facepalmed. He hadn't even been thinking about the impending holidays, even as reminders of them were everywhere and Christmas had been such a big deal in Iceland. "Oh god, how is that here already."

"Exactly." Anthony looked at Sören. "I have to clear some time for Christmas shopping."

"Ugh... oh no, I do too, don't I?" Sören had no idea what to get the guy who had everything.

Anthony tilted his head to one side. "Sören, what are your plans for the holiday? Besides working. Did you want to go back to Iceland -"

"No." The word came out more forcefully than Sören intended, and Anthony looked a little taken aback. Sören quickly added, "Sorry. It's..." He took a deep breath. "Please don't ask me anymore if I want to visit Iceland. I'll never say never to a return visit, but it's not anything that I'm keen on doing for awhile."

Anthony nodded, and then he gave Sören a look that Sören imagined people in the courtroom saw plenty of, like a predatory cat about to spring its prey. "Sören... it's not just because your sister was murdered, was it? There's another reason why -"

"There is." Sören nodded. "I don't want to talk about it right now, if it's all the same to you."

"All right."

Sören went back to the subject of Christmas. "My plans for the holiday involve you, when I'm not working, if that's OK with you."

"That's more than OK with me. I was about to tell you..." Anthony went from courtroom predator to looking almost bashful. "I told Mum and Dad about you, and they have issued an invitation for us to go over for Christmas dinner, 'Christmas dinner' being a flexible term since they know your hours may be crazy -"

"I work overnight on the twenty-fourth, but I'd like to get together with you before that, and then I have the afternoon and evening of the twenty-fifth and all of the twenty-sixth free. Amazingly."

"Good. That works out well, I can bring you by to meet the parents on Christmas Day."

Sören felt his anxiety kick up another notch, but it was balanced out by being touched and a bit tickled that Anthony had already mentioned him to his parents. "So, you really told them about me?"

"I did. Usually I don't before a certain point in time because, well, my relationship history has been less than stellar, so I'd like to make sure things look promising before I introduce them." Their eyes met. "As soon as it might be, I have that feeling about you."

Sören smiled. "So do I." His heart skipped a beat. He wondered if they'd be living together next Christmas. He wondered if they would, at some point, be married...

You've been dating this guy slightly less than a month and you want to get married. Calm the fuck down.

Sören's anxiety came surging back. "Oh no, I have to get your parents something for Christmas too, don't I -"

"No, you don't. The last few years, between the money I make and the kind of hours I work, where they know I don't have a huge amount of time for holiday shopping, my parents have told me to make a donation to charity in their names - "

"Not a gift card, at least?"

"Er, no."

And Sören once again realized that Anthony was from the sort of background where that wasn't a thing people did.

"They won't expect anything from you," Anthony added.

Sören still didn't want to show up empty-handed if he was a guest in their home, but not being able to get away with gift cards put him at a loss. Sören scratched his beard.

"That leads me to ask you, what do you want for Christmas?" Anthony poked his nose, making Sören grin. "I'd be happy to make some time to get something for you." A wry smile. "I have an appointment to get waxed, anyway, I'll be near some shops -"

Sören laughed. He'd assumed Anthony did some manscaping the first time he'd seen the man naked, but this was the first Anthony had explicitly admitted that he did, in fact, get waxed. "So that's a thing, then."

"That's a thing I do, yes. If I don't I get rather hairy, which is something I was teased about, and, ah." Anthony flushed slightly. "There's a certain expectation, with bottoms, to look a particular way..."

Sören fought back a small frown. He thought Anthony was sexy as hell, of course, he couldn't get enough of him - he'd like to take at least a week off and spend most of that time in bed - but he had a weakness for pelted men and the thought of Anthony with a healthy growth of chest hair, hair on his arms and legs... oh fuck, that's delicious. A shiver went down Sören's spine. He was torn between wanting to encourage Anthony to let his fur grow, and not wanting Anthony to feel like the way he was now, whether it was a genuine preference or not, was somehow inadequate, that Sören found him less sexy than men with body hair.

But what he could address was something else nagging at him. "Anthony, this is a personal question and feel free to answer if it makes you uncomfortable -"

"Sören, I ask uncomfortable questions for a living, and we're intimate enough that I assure you whatever you ask me probably won't be too invasive."

"All right." Sören took a deep breath. "You have a very dominant personality, why are you a bottom?" Then Sören realized how that came out and said, "Mind you, I'm versatile..." And Sören hadn't bottomed since what happened in Reykjavik - he hadn't had sex with anyone, period, Anthony being his first time after that experience. "So it's not exactly that I mind. I'm just curious. And I mean besides the obvious that it feels good - I know that. Prostate orgasms are wonderful." Sören's hole twitched then - the thought of Anthony fucking him, making him come that way... Don't get yourself all worked up again before you have to go into hell. You already had six orgasms tonight.

"Well, honestly? Being really, really honest? My own true preference is probably closer to versatility. The thing is... I like passion. I'm a power bottom, but I'm also a power top, when I do. And it's been my experience that a lot of queer men, or at least the ones who I would deem suitable as partners - guys who take care of themselves, who have some ability to communicate effectively in English - well, the bottoms tend to be what the gay community calls 'pillow princesses'. You've probably seen it yourself. They lay there and they get off, and the top does all the work, like the bottom is just entitled."

"I have been there myself, yes. Actually..." Sören chuckled. "That's why I usually bottom, too. Well, before now. Because you're right. It's boring."

"It's even more boring when I want to see someone completely fucking lose control. I like to make love and be sensual, but I also like to fuck, to rut like an animal, as nature intended."

Sören was getting horny again. It was one thing that could be said about sex with Anthony - he was very passionate, like fucking a force of nature. Passion met passion, fire met fire. Sören loved it. Down, boy, Sören told his cock.

"I like fuck too," Sören heard himself blurt out, and then he facepalmed, realizing that in his horniness he'd mangled his English. "Er. I like to fuck -"

Anthony lost it, shaking with silent laughter. "Sören, I love you."

"I love you too, you shit." Sören gave him a playful swat. "I'm sorry. My English got all -"

"Yes." Anthony leered. "Good."

Flustered, randy, Sören had a gigglefit at his slip-up. "I like fuck, já."

"I like that you like fuck, IKEA."

"Fuck you, Muhammad Ali."

When they calmed down, Anthony went on, "So, it's easier to get the sort of reaction I want from a top. It's rare to find a bottom who can take what I want to give and give that passion right back, who can keep up with me, who isn't going to lay there like a fucking prima donna, who will unleash just as much as I do."

Sören shuddered. Yes, he definitely wanted Anthony to take him.

"You," Anthony said, meeting Sören's eyes, "are an absolute beast. You make me come harder than I ever have, with someone. But I don't assume someone is the same way as a bottom, as they are as a top. I am, but many people aren't, if I even find someone who's vers to begin with."

"I'm no pillow princess," Sören said. He chuckled. "I've been told I'm a good ride."

"Good, I'd like to take you on... a test drive."

Sören grinned. "I think that can be arranged."

"I would have asked before now but you were so nervous the first night you were here that I thought I needed to tread carefully."

Sören nodded, sobering. "You weren't wrong."

Anthony gave him a pointed look, but Sören wasn't ready to tell him about what happened in Reykjavik. Not just yet. Soon. Probably very soon.

Once again Anthony knew to change the subject. "And you evaded the topic of what you want for Christmas, my dear."

"I don't even know," Sören said truthfully. "Surprise me. Just..." Sören narrowed his eyes. "Don't pull another stunt like what you did for my birthday. I know money isn't a big deal to you, but I'm still self-conscious about you going to that kind of expense so soon after you went all out for my birthday."

"Fair," Anthony said. "Causing you discomfort would be the opposite of a gift. I do want to spoil you, but I can take some time before doing so again."

"Good." Sören scowled to show he meant business. "Don't spend more than a hundred quid on whatever you're getting me."

Anthony's laughter rang out. "Sören, that's nothing -"

"Oh believe me, where I come from, it's not nothing." Sören swallowed hard, remembering weeks of having French toast for dinner two nights in a row because bread, eggs and milk was all his guardians kept in the house when they were low on money and drinking too much to go to the store, and it fell on Sören or Margrét to cook or they didn't eat.

"OK. Well, don't spend more than a hundred quid on me, then, either. And a gift card is fine, if -"

Sören got the sense Anthony would still find that tacky. "I'll think of something." He watched Anthony pull on a sweater, and he got the seed of an idea, one that he could make work if he put a particular spin on it.

"All right." Then Anthony smirked. "You've got a tent in your scrubs."

Sören flushed. "I was trying to calm down, but our topic of discussion..."

"Let me take care of it for you." Anthony patted to a space next to him on the bed.

Sören lay back, and Anthony took Sören into his mouth. Sören grabbed Anthony's head and gently fucked his mouth, moaning, Anthony encouraging him along with "mmmmmm". It didn't take long for Sören to come, being feasted on that way, and he cried out Anthony's name when he climaxed, getting teared up not just from the shattering force of his release but from the sweetness of it, Anthony taking care of him so willingly, generously.

Anthony swallowed and came up to kiss Sören, held him for a few minutes, knowing he was going to have to drive Sören to work very soon.

"God, I wish I could just curl up with you and doze off," Sören mumbled.

"I do too, but I understand why you can't." Anthony smoothed Sören's curls, kissed his brow.

"I appreciate that you. You know. Wanted to."

"I love pleasing you. I know what I said earlier makes it sound like a power trip, and yes, I get off on watching someone lose control to me, but it's... not just that." He stroked Sören's face. "You're beautiful when you come." He gave Sören a tender little kiss, his eyes soft. "There is nothing sexier in the world to me than those sweet brown eyes of yours, especially when you're in the throes of passion."

Sören felt aflutter, and kissed Anthony back, choked up. "Awwwww..."

Anthony kept stroking Sören's face, looking into his eyes. "What is that you express in your eyes? It seems to me more than all the print I have read in my life."

"Wow. That's... beautiful."

"Walt Whitman."

Sören held Anthony tighter, loving him even more fiercely for appreciating poetry like he did, the sensitivity in him that could appreciate something so lovely. "I've never read Whitman. Sounds like I should."

"He can be grandiose, over the top, but he's worth a read, yes." Anthony groaned at the time. "Right, on that note, we have to leave, right now."

"Fuck."

They were quiet on the ride down - Anthony had on the car stereo, listening to Jamiroquai, and Sören zoned out to the more mellow songs, a compromise to not being able to nap post-orgasm. It was nice, with good music, the car warm and cozy, someone he loved beside him, watching snowflakes falling in the night - Sören wished he could write poetry, capturing this moment somehow.

They lingered in the hospital parking lot, and Anthony gave him a kiss goodbye.

"I'll miss you." Anthony pet Sören's curls.

"Me too. But we have most of this weekend, at least."

Anthony took Sören's hand and kissed it, looking into his eyes again. Sören felt that giddy flutter and he said, "I still can't get over what you said about. You know. My eyes."

Anthony cupped Sören's chin in his hand, stroking Sören's beard, and then he said, "Your two great eyes will slay me suddenly; Their beauty shakes me who was once serene; Straight through my heart the wound is quick and keen." His mouth moved closer to Sören's and he whispered, "Geoffrey Chaucer," before stealing a kiss.

The kiss heated, both of them moaning into the kiss, and then Sören swatted him, laughing, tearing up, feeling like he could fly. "I'm really going now. I can't even with you, you beautiful bastard."

Anthony smiled. "I love you too."

Sören almost skipped on the way into the hospital.


_


Sören's shift ran over enough that he and Anthony went straight from National to the clinic without a stop for Sören to get changed first. Sören was tired enough from his shift that he dozed off a little in the car, not mentally spinning his wheels in anxiety like he thought he might do yesterday.

The test results were all negative, which didn't really surprise Sören but he was relieved nonetheless. He also tried to keep his reaction neutral while they were in public, not wanting to give any indicator that he doubted even for a second there might be a slight possibility he had something.

Sören continued to keep a poker face when they got back to Anthony's and Sören took a quick shower and got changed into something more suitable for them going out to dinner to celebrate negative test results and doing away with condoms. It was at the Thai restaurant when Sören's mask began to slip, not enough to make a scene, but enough that Anthony gave him a concerned look.

"Long day," Sören said. Long life.

When they returned to Anthony's and were sitting on his couch together, Anthony cradling Sören's head to his chest, petting him, Anthony finally said, "Sören, what is it. Don't tell me 'long day' again, that's bullshit." He cupped Sören's chin and tilted Sören's face, making Sören look him in the eye.

"Anthony, I have to tell you something." Sören swallowed hard. At the slight look of alarm in Anthony's eyes, Sören grabbed his arm and said, "No, don't worry, it's..." He didn't want Anthony to think something shady was going on. He took a deep breath then and said, "It's directly related to why I don't want to go back to Iceland."

A slight nod. "I'll put on tea." Anthony patted Sören and got up.

You are so British it's painful. It was also endearing, Sören giving Anthony a fond smile as he strode to the living room.

Anthony came back with hot tea for both of them a short while later, which was cozy and comforting on a cold, snowy night like this, and after a few sips of tea, Sören put his mug down and said, "OK. I'll come right out with it." He looked into Anthony's eyes. "I was raped in Reykjavik, that's why I left."

Anthony also put his tea down. He blinked slowly but otherwise didn't react. Not yet. He waited for Sören to go on.

"To back up a bit," Sören said, "I... struggle with depression. The kind that's difficult to medicate properly. I went into medicine as a calling, after what happened with my mamma, but it's still a very hard line of work for me to be in, it's a hard profession for anyone whether they've got mental health issues or not. I tend to self-medicate different ways, and the last couple years I was living in Reykjavik, a form of cheap therapy for me was to go out dancing. There's something very... cathartic... about moving your body, letting loose to music. One night I accepted a drink from a stranger, and the next morning I woke up in an alley in Reykjavik and I still don't remember what happened, I only know that I woke up... used."

"Jesus." Anthony winced as if he was in pain. "Sören." He grabbed Sören's hands, his voice husky with emotion. "Sören, I'm so sorry."

"I couldn't prosecute because I don't know to this day who did it. And I ended up leaving because, well, in a city of two hundred thousand people, there is a non-zero chance I'm going to run into whoever it was, and there was possibly more than one of them, judging from the, ah... evidence." Sören also winced now. He reached for his tea and spent a moment drinking it, the heat of the tea warding off the cold numb shock of reliving that morning. "I haven't had sex with anyone since that time - you were the first. I used to be able to do casual sex without a problem, but." Sören sighed deeply. "Wasn't just that I've been afraid of strangers but I felt so fucking dirty, and I felt stupid, like I should have known better, but Iceland is such a safe, quiet country -"

"Sören, it's not your fault." Anthony's eyes were stern but compassionate. "And you're not dirty. You're not damaged goods." Anthony's voice was husky again as he reached for Sören's face, stroked it, his eyes too bright. "I love you."

Sören's jaw trembled, and he felt his eyes burn with tears that he hadn't shed about the situation in months - he'd been beaten out of crying for himself by his uncle Einar years ago, though he could cry for other people. Anthony took Sören's mug of tea out of his hands and put it down and he grabbed Sören and pulled him close, held him tight. He began to rock Sören back and forth, petting Sören's curls, letting Sören fall apart in his arms. Those arms always felt so safe and comforting but never had they felt more safe and comforting as they did then, Anthony his fortress against the terror of the world.

"Shhhhhhh. I know it hurts, darling." Anthony continued to pet him, rock him. "You're in a safe place to let it out. It's OK."

"I never told anyone," Sören sobbed. "I'm so ashamed -"

"You have nothing to be ashamed of."

Sören cried harder, and Anthony's arms tightened around him. Sören felt a telltale tremble against him and when he looked up Anthony was shedding quiet tears for him too, and Sören broke down even more, ugly crying, overcome that someone else would cry for him over this. Anthony pulled Sören's head towards him and began to kiss Sören's tears, his own tears still flowing, and then he crushed Sören to his chest again, Sören sobbing, wracked with grief and rage and regret but also the gratitude of being loved and accepted this way.

Even though they'd had tea, it was late enough at night and Sören had at this point been awake for over twenty-four hours, that Anthony gently rubbed Sören's shoulder and said, "We should get some rest."

Sören frowned. "I'm sorry. I know you wanted to get laid tonight -"

"Sören, taking care of you is more important. You need to be held right now. Come to bed and let me hold you."

After they got changed and washed up, they settled into bed together. Anthony pulled Sören back into his arms, held him tight, the blankets swaddling them like a living burrito. Sören continued to cry for awhile into Anthony's chest and then, drained, he lay there and Anthony continued rocking and petting him, making soothing noises.

At last Sören looked up at him in the blue glow of the nightlight. "I'm... I'm glad you don't think less of me."

"Only an arsehole would think less of you, Sören." Anthony kissed Sören's brow. "I love you. All of you. Including the hurt places. I believe you, and what happened to you wasn't your fault, I don't think less of you, I'm not repulsed by you." He stroked Sören's face again. "And I'm honored," he husked, "that I was your first after all of that. I don't know what it was that made you decide -"

"It felt right," Sören said, looking into his eyes. "I felt like I could trust you."

Anthony took Sören's face into his hands and gave him a sweet, lingering kiss. "I hope I never do anything to betray that trust." His arms wrapped around Sören again, tight, safe and warm. "Your heart is a precious gift. I feel as if the universe dropped a rare, magical artifact and it's been assigned to me to protect."

"Oh Jesus." Sören started sobbing again, touched by that. "Dammit, Muhammad Ali, I was using those feelings."

Anthony chuckled with him, but there was a note of sadness in it, still haunted from Sören's confession. "Yes, it was a secret IKEA product..."

Sören gave him a playful swat, and then kissed his cheek, smiling through his tears. "I love you, you know."

"I do know." Anthony kissed him back. "I love you. And now you need to get some sleep." He put Sören's head back on his chest and started rubbing Sören's head, giving him a scalp massage that helped calm him down and roll the tension out of him. Their legs braided together and after a few minutes, Sören felt the ache leave his body and he faded into the night.


_


Anthony was up before Sören late Saturday morning - Sören cringed when he realized he'd been exhausted enough to sleep through the alarm, and Anthony had likely been up since the alarm went off which meant he hadn't gotten all that much sleep.

Anthony put on tea when he saw Sören putter out to the living room. Sören sat on the couch and put on the TV; Anthony was at his desk, his laptop open, a stack of paperwork. Anthony looked rumpled and sexy still in pajamas, hair disheveled from sleep, and he was actually wearing wire-rimmed glasses instead of his usual contacts. Sören thought Anthony in glasses was the hottest thing alive, and he kept stealing glances over at the desk as he began to wake up. Anthony was type A enough to be engrossed in what he was doing the first several times Sören stared at him, but finally he caught Sören looking and said, with a shy smile, "What?"

"You're so fucking cute. That's what."

Anthony blushed. "I am not cute, Sören."

"Hi Not Cute -"

Anthony gave him a look, but then he smiled, letting Sören know he wasn't nearly as annoyed as he pretended to be.

Sören felt hungover even though he'd had not a drop of alcohol yesterday - it was the familiar feeling of exhaustion and bodily achiness that always came after a big teary catharsis. He stretched out on the couch, not really paying attention to the TV, lost in that nebulous space of half-awake, until Anthony got up from his desk and stretched.

"You know," Anthony told him, "you can make yourself at home here. I don't care if you want to look around." He gestured at his collections of music, books, DVDs.

"Oh. I mean, I... I don't want to intrude by going through your stuff..."

"You're not."

After a few minutes of reservation Sören got up and went over to Anthony's books. He noticed there was a series of hardcover books tucked behind a row of classics, and, taking Anthony at his word that he wasn't intruding, he reached out for one of the hidden hardcovers, curious. His laughter rang out when he pulled it up and saw what it was, delighted.

Anthony gave him a look and then he facepalmed when he saw Sören had found Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Sören had a suspicion about the others, and he was right. "Why are you hiding these?"

"Because I'm thirty-one going on thirty-two."

"So?" Sören shrugged. "I like Harry Potter. There's nothing wrong with that. No such thing as too old to like it."

"I suppose not, but..." Anthony gave a small frown. "There are people in my profession who would disagree with you."

"And they can go fuck themselves with that stick up their arse."

Anthony shook with laughter, turning red. "God, Sören..."

"This is great, I have someone to geek out with." Sören clapped excitedly. "What House are you in?"

"Guess," Anthony said, sitting back in his chair, a look of amusement on his face.

Sören took a moment, stroking his beard, and then he said, "You want the world to think you're a Slytherin, but you're actually a Ravenclaw."

"I hate how accurate that is."

Sören grinned and clapped again like an excited big kid. "OK, do me."

Anthony leered, and Sören snorted, and then Anthony said, without hesitation, "Sören, you are so Gryffindor someone should sit on you."

"Yes." Sören nodded. Now it was his turn to leer. "Someone should."

Anthony blushed again, and Sören gave him a wicked grin. Anthony cleared his throat loudly, adjusting in his chair - Sören knew exactly where his mind was going, and then, after a moment of innocent whistling that wasn't innocent at all, Anthony said, "Well, I know it's been out for months now but part two of Deathly Hallows is still playing if you want to go see it?"

"I would. I actually haven't seen it yet."

Anthony looked aghast.

"You see how many hours I work?" Sören shrugged. "Going to the cinema isn't something I get to do often."

"All right. Well... I'm just about done here -"

"Hi Just About Done Here -"

Anthony glared, Sören stuck out his tongue, and then Anthony said, "10 points from Gryffindor. I'm just about done here, so if you want to start getting ready, we can go see the movie, grab something to eat... then come back here, and, ah... we can show each other our wands, if you're up for that."

"I'm up for that, yes."

"Hi Up For That."

"Jæja, fuck you," Sören laughed, grinning as he shuffled off.

When they were ready - Anthony in a dark blue cashmere sweater and jeans, Sören in a red plaid flannel shirt over a black turtleneck and faded jeans, Anthony in a wool greatcoat and Sören in his black leather duster - they went to the cinema together. It was lightly snowing again, and Sören liked seeing the snowflakes dust Anthony's hair and coat, which made him look almost regal. He wished that for once Anthony would forego the contacts and wear glasses in public - Sören's blood boiled recalling how delicious he looked that morning - but he understood the self-consciousness about it and didn't press it, and Anthony was still gorgeous to him. Sören felt that warm glow of pride at the handsome man on his arm as they waited in the queue for tickets.

Inside the theater room showing the movie, it had been out long enough that even on a Saturday afternoon there weren't very many people in the theater. Sören and Anthony had been affectionate in public before, within bounds of decorum, but now they were more uninhibited, snuggling together, and during the more difficult scenes Anthony reached out to touch Sören, assuring, comforting. The proximity and the touch got Sören's libido stirring again, and Sören fought back the urge to get on his knees and suck him off right there, not wanting them to get arrested for public indecency. The thought was on his mind as they went out for an early dinner, continuing to touch, flirt, tease. playing footsie under the table, and Sören's thoughts were racing with desire all the way back to Anthony's flat.

They wasted no time getting undressed and in the shower, kissing hungrily, caressing, playing with each other's hard cocks. Anthony led Sören to the bed, and when they were on the bed together they just lay there for a moment, looking at each other, aware of the gravity of what they were about to do, having unprotected sex for the first time. It was an act of commitment, of trust, of deeper intimacy.

Anthony was the one to reach out first, to pull Sören into a kiss. "We don't have to do anything you don't want to do -"

"I want to do... everything..." Sören said, his voice raspy with want, "but we'll start with what we're used to, tonight, if that's OK." He wanted to mentally prepare himself just a little more for being taken, though he was very close to being ready.

"That's... more than OK," Anthony husked, and kissed Sören again.

Sören grinned. "So you said I'm so Gryffindor someone should sit on me, já?"

Anthony grinned back. "Hi So Gryffindor Someone Should -"

Sören grabbed Anthony and kissed him hard, with a growl, and then Sören heard himself moan into the kiss as Anthony's hand wrapped around Sören's cock, stroking it slowly, teasing. A few deep, fierce kisses later, and Anthony stopped playing with Sören's cock, and, his face deadly serious, he rose up, and maneuvered to sit on Sören's face. Then he leaned over Sören's body and took Sören's cock into his mouth, sucking him hard as Sören's tongue slipped inside Anthony and Sören ate him with even more hunger and passion than usual, wanting to get his lover very ready and willing for the step they were about to take, because Sören knew once he was in Anthony completely bare, the beast in him was going to come out even more than usual.

He also wanted to make it very, very good for him, expressing his love with his tongue swirling, dancing, lashing, rubbing, love especially for the acceptance and tenderness of last night. He always loved doing this to Anthony - he was getting harder and harder at the noises Anthony made with his mouth full, enjoying what Sören was doing to him - but tonight he was especially into it, wanting this to be a night to remember. Anthony got more and more vocal as Sören feasted, and at last Anthony rolled off, panting, "That's too good, Sören. I want to come with you inside me."

Sören shuddered at that. He slapped his upper thighs, a "come here" gesture. Anthony grabbed the lube and settled over Sören, leaning down to kiss him, as Sören slicked his fingers and began to work them inside, and Anthony poured lube over Sören's cock, stroking slowly, teasing it. The kisses deepened, fire calling to fire. Sören's body was screaming for release, but even more than that the need to mate, to join, to give and to take, to fuck.

Anthony straddled him and sank down slowly. When Sören bottomed out in him their eyes locked and Anthony's breath came out in a gasp, and so did Sören's. They took each other's hands, feeling that sense of wonder that they were, truly, one flesh now.

Anthony started to ride, and Sören rolled his hips, rocking into him, grabbing Anthony's hips to steady him. They kept the pace just fast enough at first to get a good rhythm going - Anthony cried out as he felt the bead of Sören's piercing for the first time with no barrier. "Oh, fuck. Sören. Sören." He shivered. "Oh my god, that ring."

"That's why I got it done."

"Jesus." Anthony rode a little harder. "Sören. Oh god." He shivered again.

Sören was delighted he liked it that much, even moreso when he began to thrust harder, faster, and Anthony's moans got louder, panting for it, Anthony's hips and ass working harder on top of him, matching Sören's rhythm. Sören loved watching Anthony ride him, his cock going in and out of him, Anthony's own hardness, leaking precum, the fluid grace of him astride Sören's hips, the look of lust on his face. Sören got lost in the silken heat wrapped around him, the moans, that place of sensation and desire that felt like the only place that existed, nothing else mattered.

And at last the beast came out, grabbing Anthony's hips harder and driving into him, Anthony holding on tight and bouncing away, giving back as good as he got, making the most delicious grunts and groans, threatening to bring Sören off with each one. Sören finally seized Anthony's cock and stroked it in time to their fuck, and when he could feel Anthony's thighs quivering, saw that desperate look in his eyes, Sören ground out, "Come for me."

Anthony went off like a rocket, calling Sören's name again and again as he shot over Sören's stomach and chest. Sören climaxed a few seconds later, his orgasm even more intense than usual as he felt Anthony's passage squeezing him, pulsing, even more delicious with nothing in the way. "OH, fuck." Sören gasped for breath. "Anthony. Ó guð, elskan ástin mín, það er svo fokking gott..."

Anthony chuckled. "Brilliant, I made you lose your English."

"Þú lést mig missa helvítis fokking hugann."

Anthony came down and rested in Sören's arms for a few moments, the two nuzzling and petting, and then Anthony looked into Sören's eyes and asked, "Again?"

They rolled so Anthony was laying on his back, Sören still inside him, already hardening up again. Sören hooked one of Anthony's legs around his waist and began to thrust, more slowly than before. Slow, sensual, teasing, loving. Anthony wrapped his arms around Sören and they kissed again and again, savoring that feeling of being joined, connected, truly making love with nothing between them.

But soon enough the hunger rose again and Anthony grabbed Sören and worked his hips, urging Sören on harder, faster, and Sören gave him what he wanted, pounding Anthony into the mattress, balls slapping wildly, Sören hearing animal grunts and growls come out of himself as he drove with single-minded, blazing need, Anthony's cries and gasps, urgently clutching him, nails digging into him, stoking Sören's fire hotter, brighter, until it consumed them both, Anthony letting out a sob as his orgasm tore through him, coming all over Sören, his channel grasping Sören's cock and working Sören into a wrenching, so-good-it-almost-hurt climax of his own.

"Sören," Anthony called out as he shuddered, twitched, still throbbing around him. "Sören, my love."

Sören grabbed Anthony's face and kissed him with all the fire in him, heart soaring in the flames like the phoenix on his back. "I love you," Sören ground out, and kissed him again.

"That piercing is going to be the death of me." Anthony laughed and cried, wiping his eyes. "God, I came my brains out."

Sören kissed the tip of his nose, grinning. They rubbed noses and now it was Sören's turn to lay in Anthony's arms, sinking into glowing bliss after the blinding glory of his release.

At some point Sören slipped out of him, and Anthony made a little noise of protest. Sören, dazed and dozing a little, snapped back to wakefulness at the sound Anthony made.

"You want to go again?" Sören asked.

Anthony nodded, looking so eager and boyishly exuberant that it made Sören laugh. As powerful as his two orgasms had been and he could have gone for a nap, his cock woke right up again as Anthony grabbed him and pulled him close.

But Sören wasn't going to indulge him immediately. Once again, Sören wanted to shower Anthony with love, appreciation. He spent a long time kissing and licking Anthony all over, fingers wandering, brushing, exploring and teasing. He'd learned Anthony's body pretty well over the last few weeks, paid attention to where his erogenous zones were - though all of him was sensitive - and Sören focused on his nipples, the rest of his chest, hips, stomach, inner thighs. There was a place on the left side of Anthony's stomach, lower, where if Sören's hand touched it or he kissed there, it made Anthony buck and make a primal, guttural noise, and Sören loved that, giving it special treatment now, until Anthony's eyes were glazed over and he was making inhuman noises, precum flowing down his shaft.

Sören's tongue chased the precum, and he sucked Anthony's cock for a couple minutes, fingers slipping between Anthony's legs, lower, playing around the rim of his opening. When Sören's mouth left Anthony's cock he surveyed his handiwork, groaning at the utterly debauched sight of Anthony full of his seed, leaking out onto the expensive silk sheets. Sören split Anthony like a peach and pushed his tongue inside, Sören's cock getting even harder at the depravity of eating his own cum out of another man. Anthony grabbed Sören's head, pulled his curls, and gently fucked himself on Sören's tongue, lashing away, then less gently as Sören began to devour him, shaking his head, tongue like a hurricane.

Sören lapped up more precum before he came up, and this time he grabbed Anthony's legs and wrapped them around his waist. Anthony clutched at Sören and took it, wanting Sören to unleash, and Sören gave in to yet another hard, wild, primal fuck, loving it, completely lost and given over to pleasure and desire. They came together this time, and kissed through their orgasm, drinking each other's cries.

They both ended up falling asleep after that, completely shattered. A couple hours later Sören woke up, and Anthony did too, and they held each other, watching the snow fall over the Thames in the glow of London lit up at night, before falling back asleep.

Around three AM, two hours before Anthony's alarm was set to go off, Anthony got up, went to the bathroom, trying not to wake Sören, but Sören woke anyway, and found himself randy again, casually stroking himself as he waited for Anthony to return. Anthony had the same idea, going hard at the sight of Sören propped up on one elbow, cock out and ready to play.

Anthony got back in bed and after a few minutes of kissing and petting, Sören husked, "I want you inside me."

Anthony blinked slowly. "Oh. OK." He stroked Sören's face. "Are you sure? I don't want you to feel pressured -"

Sören grabbed him and kissed him harder. "I want to do this." Their eyes met. "I need to do this." Sören pulled Anthony closer. "I need you."

As hard as they both were, Anthony wasn't going to give Sören what he wanted right away, paying Sören back for his earlier teasing by lavishing the same love on Sören's body, kissing and licking and nibbling and caressing. Anthony had found out to his delight that Sören's pierced nipples were hard-wired to his cock, and he spent awhile going back and forth between them, rubbing, rolling, pinching and plucking one while he lapped, suckled, bit the other, teasing them into aching peaks. Anthony licking Sören's stomach almost brought Sören off right then, and again when Anthony nibbled on Sören's thighs and sucked at them. Sören knew he would have love bites there later, and he shivered, loving the way his lover claimed him.

What he loved even more was when Anthony licked around the rim of Sören's opening in slow, lazy circles, teasing him. Their eyes met and Anthony said, "I love you."

"I love you."

"Let me kiss it better, sweetheart."

Anthony's tongue had been in Sören before, but it was even more loving and deliberate now, like Anthony was taking special care of him now that he knew what had happened. The sweetness of it got Sören choked up, tears misting his eyes. It also felt wonderful, Anthony's tongue reminding him how good prostate stimulation was, making him crave more, to be filled even more completely.

At last Sören begged, "Please. Take me."

Anthony came up, readied them both, and kissed Sören as he began to push inside, slowly. It had been well over a year and a half since Sören had been penetrated and he was tight. Sören winced at the pinching, burning, and Anthony watched him with concern. "Keep going," Sören told him. "I need to do this."

Sören pushed out as Anthony continued to push in, and at last Anthony was all the way in him and they both gasped, their breath shaking as Anthony lay there for a moment, giving Sören a chance to adjust.

When Anthony began to thrust it was slow, gentle, holding Sören's hand with one hand, stroking his face with the other, looking into Sören's eyes, watching him. After a few thrusts Sören gasped and Anthony asked, "Are you OK?"

"Oh god." He'd found that spot. "Oh, fuuuuuuck."

Anthony smiled, kissed Sören, and continued to thrust. Soon Anthony's groans were following Sören's moans.

The silken rhythm on that sweet spot inside him and Sören was in tears of joy. He'd enjoyed being penetrated before everything had happened but this was something else entirely, Anthony making slow, deliberate love to him, wanting to please him, wanting to make it right. Sören's moans and sighs filled the room, and soon Sören was panting, gasping, rolling his hips back at Anthony, matching him thrust for thrust. "More," Sören breathed. "Oh god, more, please, more..."

That word was like kryptonite to his lover. Anthony went a little harder and faster and Sören grabbed Anthony's hips and continued to rock back against him. Soon Sören was clawing Anthony's back, bucking away underneath him, shouting "More, more, harder, faster, fuck me, fuck me..."

"You sure, love?"

He was trying so valiantly to be a gentleman about this. Sören kissed him hard and growled, "Fucking fuck me, I can take it. I need this. I need it. More."

Anthony drove into him, and the rubbing-rubbing-rubbing on his prostate sent Sören into a frenzy, writhing, howling, begging for more, lost completely in lust at his lover giving into his own need, fucking him as hard as he'd advertised claiming to be a power top. Together they unleashed, and with each thrust, each kiss, Sören felt like Anthony's cock was driving away ghosts, demons, everything haunting him, lingering and feeling unclean. The fire that burned through them both cleansed, purified, hallowed, a sexual rebirth, Sören's body coming alive again, singing for joy.

"More, more, more, more, oh god, don't stop, don't you fucking stop, more..."

"Sören." Anthony's voice was a growl. "Oh, Sören..."

"Oh, god. More. Please. More." Sören shuddered, whimpered. "I'm so close so close soclosesoclose -"

A couple of minutes later that felt like an eternity, Sören's body trembling, bearing down, ready to spring, and he climaxed, howling as his cock sprayed the both of them. Anthony grabbed Sören two thrusts later and called out his name, and the feel of Anthony quivering against him as heat flooded inside him made Sören let out another arc of cum with a deep groan.

Sören started to cry, overcome by the magic of what just happened, and Anthony cried with him. They held each other, crying, rocking, at last just kissing. "I love you," Anthony said between fierce, passionate kisses. "You did it. I'm so proud of you -"

"Hi, So Proud Of You."

Anthony swatted Sören.

"Thank you," Sören said, holding him tight. "Oh god, thank you."

They kissed some more, and the kissing got them hard again. Sören shoved Anthony onto his back, Anthony chuckling and Sören giggling. Anthony took Sören's hands as Sören got into position, straddling Anthony's hips. Now it was Sören's turn to ride, putting his money where his mouth was about being a good ride, bouncing wild and free, Anthony grabbing Sören and giving it to him as hard as Sören could take it, Sören riding him like he was a bull.

"You weren't kidding," Anthony rasped a few minutes into their fuck.

"No, I wasn't."

"God, I love you."

"I love you." Sören let out a moan. "And I love your cock."

"It certainly loves you, let me tell you."

Sören rode and rode, bucking furiously, not able to get enough. They hung on that edge as long as possible, not wanting it to be over, both of them needing this as badly as they'd needed anything. But at last Sören couldn't hold back anymore and threw back his head and screamed when his orgasm erupted, and a minute later Anthony made a wild animal noise as he shot another load into Sören, just before Sören collapsed on top of him, into his waiting arms.

"Oh god." Sören was sobbing again. "Oh my fucking god, that was good."

"I love you." Anthony held him tight, rocked him. "Dear god, I love you."

They tangled up together, napping off and on, until Anthony's alarm went off. "Fuck it," Anthony said, not getting up, arms tightening around Sören, who giggled before they went back to sleep.

They did have to get up in time for Anthony to bring Sören to work late that morning. Sören was only scheduled to work eight hours today, 11 AM to 7 PM, and had plans to return to Anthony's flat that evening. They had a furious, feverish makeout session in the parking lot of National before Anthony swatted Sören and commanded, "Go, before I don't let you leave," and Sören stepped out of the Audi and gave Anthony a sassy butt wiggle on his way out.

Sören was walking a little funny and moving gingerly during his shift, which Colin finally raised an eyebrow at and got a guilty grin from Sören, making Colin facepalm, laughing, "Jesus Christ, mate."

Sören was in reasonably good spirits during his shift, that sated, glowy feeling lasting throughout the day. But when Anthony came by to pick him up in the evening, the hunger returned, no longer sated, needing more.

Anthony was insisting on feeding him first. Sören was still in scrubs but Anthony didn't seem to mind, wanting to make sure Sören was taken care of. The drive to a restaurant in the snow was relaxing, moreso with Anthony playing jazz on the car stereo. Sören looked up at the last quarter moon shining on them just as Billie Holiday began to sing, and Anthony turned the music up, giving Sören a sweet, wistful look as he did.

I wished on the moon, for something I never knew
I wished on the moon, for more than I ever knew
A sweeter rose, a softer sky
On April days that would not dance by

I wished on the stars to throw me a beam or two
I begged on the stars and asked for a dream or two
I looked for every loveliness, it all came true
I wished on the moon for you


Sören got all choked up now, and Anthony was choked up too. He reached out and gave Sören a squeeze.

"When I was a lad," Anthony said, "my mum used to read me fairy stories. And at night, I used to go out to the garden and say goodnight to the moon and stars -"

"Hey, I used to do that in Iceland, too."

Their eyes met, and Anthony squeezed Sören again and continued, "And before I knew what 'gay' was, I just knew I liked boys and not girls, that way, I used to wish that I'd meet Prince Charming. Which sounds so utterly fucking daft now that I'm grown up..."

"It's cute." Sören crinkled his nose and bit his lower lip. "That's precious. My god."

Anthony turned beetroot. "Anyway. I went through a lot of toads, I think, but..."

"You think you found Prince Charming?" Sören was touched.

"Not a prince." Anthony stroked Sören's face. "A king."

Sören leaned in to kiss him. Anthony ended up having to pull over, the two of them kissing passionately in the car under the moonglow, snow falling. At last Anthony pushed him back, chuckling. "Save that for later," he husked.

As soon as they got back in the flat after dinner Sören fell on him again, the two kissing and undressing feverishly as if their lives depended on it. Sören pulled Anthony down onto the bed and spread to him, needing to be filled again. He sighed when Anthony slid into him, when they were one flesh once more. Nothing had ever felt so right.

Chapter Text

Sören growled as he turned off the blaring alarm clock, and made a whining noise as Anthony patted him and he snuggled deeper against his lover.

"I don't wanna go to wo-o-o-o-ork," Sören moaned.

"I know, love." Anthony kissed Sören's brow. "And I don't want to encourage you to take a sick day -"

"No, that would... bother my conscience too much. As it is, the reason why I'm working Christmas Eve is because we need what help we can get." Sören frowned and sat up. Anthony sat up with him and stole a kiss.

It was Saturday, December twenty-fourth. On Friday the twenty-third Sören had the morning free and he'd done very last-minute gift shopping for Anthony; he'd gotten off work late last night but had told Anthony to come over in the morning instead. Anthony had assumed it was so Sören could go right to sleep after his shift, but what he didn't know was that Sören had no intention of going to Anthony's parents' house empty-handed on Sunday, so when he arrived home just before midnight he got right to work in the kitchen. At a loss as far as presents for Elaine and Roger Wyatt-Jones, Sören had decided on baked goods, since almost everyone liked those. And so he spent the next couple hours whipping up batches of traditional Icelandic holiday treats - piparkökur, spesíur and Sören's personal favorite, lakkrístoppar.

He got a few hours of sleep before Anthony came by his flat in Bromley first thing on this Saturday morning; Sören didn't even get a chance to fold up his bed back into the couch. Anthony didn't seem to mind. As he made coffee in the kitchen he noticed what Sören had done - stealing one of the piparkökur for himself while Sören scolded him and Anthony made an innocent face that wasn't innocent at all - and then Anthony had asked, "You made those?"

"Jæja, I... stayed up last night. I wanted to do something nice for your parents since they're kind enough to invite me, and they're insisting we spend the night." Mindful of the busy schedules Sören and Anthony kept and how precious their free time was, Elaine had told Anthony they were welcome to spend the night in Anthony's old room rather than go to a hotel or try to drive back. Sören felt a little awkward about sharing a bed with his lover under the same roof as his parents, but he knew it was more practical.

Anthony pulled Sören into a tight hug and rained kisses all over his face. He was visibly touched, knowing what it cost Sören with his constant exhaustion to do such a thing. "You dear, thoughtful man."

Sören crinkled his nose and bit his lower lip. "I tried -"

Anthony kissed him hard, and it turned out to be just as well that Sören hadn't folded up his bed, because Anthony pulled him onto it and soon they were undressing and settled into a hungry sixty-nine. They spent the entire day of Christmas Eve in bed making sweaty, loud, messy, passionate love, sucking and rimming each other, taking each other, bringing each other to climax after climax. Eventually Sören felt like he'd been shot out of the sky, falling from the blinding glory of sex into a warm, cozy sleep, wrapped up in Anthony's arms, their legs entwined. Anthony had the sense to set Sören's alarm clock so Sören could wake up in time to get ready for his shift with enough time to spare to eat, shower, and do some last-minute canoodling.

After Sören showered, he called for takeaway from a nearby Indian restaurant that was open for delivery on Christmas Eve. As they waited for the food to arrive, Sören and Anthony folded the bed back into the couch and then Sören put on the stereo, selecting a station playing Christmas music, and he and Anthony danced around Sören's tiny kitchen, Anthony spinning him around and dipping him. Just as Sören saw the delivery car pull up from the window, Anthony stole another piparkökur, shoving one in Sören's mouth and nibbling one himself.

"Save those for your parents, you," Sören said.

Anthony grinned and playfully swatted Sören's ass. "I can't help it, they're so tempting. Like the man who made them." He leered.

Heat rose to Sören's cheeks and he giggled, swatting Anthony back. "Good lord."

"You could have become a chef if you hadn't gone into medicine," Anthony said as he nibbled the cookie. "Seriously."

"Oh come on, I mean they're good, I guess, but I wouldn't win any awards."

"I beg to differ. You are a man of many talents."

"Your mind is right in the gutter again, isn't it."

"Darling, my mind lives in the gutter, where you are concerned." Anthony leaned in and gave Sören a little kiss. "But in the gutter though I may be, I look at you and see the stars."

"That's beautiful."

"That's paraphrasing Oscar Wilde."

"Still." Sören kissed him back, hard, and gave a little groan, lamenting that it would be impractical for them to try to have more sex before his shift started. The knock came at the door and Sören answered, paying the driver and tipping generously since it was the holiday.

They sat on the couch together and ate, and then Anthony said, "Would you like your Christmas gift now or later?"

"Depends on what it is." Sören looked at the clock and then gave Anthony a pointed look.

Anthony's laughter rang out. "I'm clearly not the only one whose mind is always in the gutter."

"Hi Clearly Not The Only One Who -"

Anthony silenced him with a kiss. "It's an actual gift, Sören." A pause. "The kind you unwrap."

"That's still not helping."

Anthony glared. "With a bow on it."

"...That's not helping either."

Anthony lost it, turning red, doubling over. "Sören Sigurdsson, do you think I would put a bow on..." He couldn't finish the sentence, laughing too hard.

When they calmed down Sören said, "Well, Christmas Eve was when I opened presents... the years I got anything, anyway..." He watched Anthony cringe - Anthony still didn't know the extent of how bad Sören's upbringing in Iceland had been, but moments like this were telling, and Sören could see he felt for him. "So we might as well do it now, plus that takes pressure off me with your parents seeing what I got you and thinking it's not good enough or -"

"Oh, Sören." Anthony patted him. He reached into the overnight bag he'd brought and pulled out a navy-colored gift bag. Sören went over to the kitchen, opened up a cupboard - Anthony laughed that Sören had actually hidden the gift, knowing how he liked to poke around - and Sören came back with a long, narrow box, wrapped in red plaid wrapping paper with a gold bow.

Sören opened the navy blue gift bag and pulled out something cube-shaped and heavy, wrapped in deep blue sparkly wrapping paper with a curly silver bow. Sören shook it and it made no sound; Anthony seemed amused by this. "Go on," Anthony said.

Despite the careful wrapping job, Sören tore into the paper, to Anthony's greater amusement, Anthony laughing as wrapping paper went everywhere. Anthony had given Sören a set of hardbound books. One was Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. One was the collected works of Pablo Neruda. One was a book of Byron's poetry. One was Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot.

"Oh my." Sören felt that ache in his chest, a flutter in his stomach, that Anthony had observed how much Sören was touched by quotations he'd made from poets and thought he might like to read more - which Sören did. It was perfect. He threw his arms around Anthony and kissed him, laughing. "Thank you. I love it. I can't wait to read these." Sören gave a bitter little chuckle. "I can't wait to have time to read these."

Anthony stroked Sören's cheek and pet his curls. "Good, I'm relieved you didn't think this was..." He made a face. "Too nerdy."

"Oh my god no." Sören hugged him tighter, and wondered what prompted a statement like that, being they both had to be fairly intellectual to get into their respective professions. "No, it's not too nerdy at all. Are you kidding me? I think it's so fucking hot that you're well-read, that you appreciate poetry..." Sören's voice got husky with emotion. "It's art, with words. It takes depth to be able to connect with it."

Anthony smiled and kissed the tip of Sören's nose, blushing a little.

"Now you," Sören said, thrusting the present at him.

"Do you have a scissor? You did a nice job with wrapping this, I -"

"JUST OPEN THE FUCKING PRESENT," Sören yelled.

Anthony doubled over laughing again. He tweaked Sören's nose and then he tore off the wrapping paper like a big kid, to Sören's delight. The long, narrow box contained a tie - Armani, dark navy blue, herringbone design. Anthony didn't react when he saw it - neither registering pleasure nor disappointment.

"I know it's not exciting," Sören said, "but it's practical, and it'll go with the colors you usually wear, and it's... it's, you know, Armani." It had cost most of the hundred quid Sören had insisted on as a limit for spending, and Sören suspected Anthony had still gone over the limit with his books. "And it's... you know, a little piece of me to take with you every day..."

Anthony's eyes softened and he reached for Sören's hand and squeezed.

And then Sören put the spin on it that he'd been planning on when he got the idea in his head to just go with the safe, low-stress option of a tie. "And it means Jólakötturinn won't eat you."

Anthony's eyes widened, his eyebrows went up, and he said, looking amused and bemused all at once, "Yo-la... what? Eating me? What?"

Sören laughed. "So to back up a bit, back in Iceland, our Christmas is different. We have a troll couple, Gryla and Leppaludi, who live in a cave, and they cook naughty children in a stew. They have thirteen sons, the Jólasveinar or Yule Lads, and they come one by one to play pranks on everyone. If you're good, they leave you sweets or other small gifts in your shoe, and if you've been naughty, they leave a potato. But the Yule Lads are mostly harmless. It's the Jólakötturinn you have to watch out for. The Yule Cat will eat you if you don't get at least one item of new clothing for Christmas."

"Are you taking the piss?"

"No."

"Icelanders teach this to small children?"

Sören nodded vehemently. "We live on a tiny island with volcanoes that can kill us, it's made everything a bit dark, I think."

"That's seriously disturbing, and if I was a religious man I'd say I'm going to hell for finding that funny. Scaring children is awful."

"It's not really that scary, if you've behaved yourself and you've got new clothing." Sören gestured to the tie. "See? You're safe from Jólakötturinn... this year."

"Well, thank you." Anthony took the tie out of the box and gave Sören a kiss. "It's my color, and I will always think of you when I wear it." He snickered. "My hero, saving me from the Yule Cat."

"Wish I could save us from my fucking Yule schedule," Sören said, glowering at the clock.

"Right, I should bring you to work now."

Sören had packed a bag to bring to Anthony's parents' house in Blackheath for the weekend, and they brought the bag and the cookies down to Anthony's car so when Sören got off work tomorrow late afternoon they could just go directly from National to Blackheath without having to stop at Sören's flat in Bromley first. As Anthony loaded the cookies into his Audi, Sören scolded him, "Now, you leave those alone and save them for Christmas Day, or I'll take back that tie and let Jólakötturinn eat you."

Anthony chuckled and stole a kiss. "I love you, you know."

"I know." Sören kissed him back. "I love you too."

At National, Sören lingered in the car, not wanting to go. They shared a few last kisses, until the kisses got more heated and Sören was tempted to be late for work. They pulled apart breathing hard, flushed, and Anthony said, "I'll see you tomorrow."

Sören gave his shoulder a squeeze. "I'm sorry I have to work tonight."

"I am too, but it's not your fault. Do you want me to come by on your break -"

"You can, but you need your rest too, so it's OK if you just come by when my shift is done." Sören blew him a kiss and gave him a sad little wave.


_


Anthony didn't come by on Sören's break, which was fine because Sören was a bit frazzled and didn't quite want Anthony to see him like this on Christmas. He managed to calm down when his shift was over and Anthony was waiting for him in the Audi, all smiles when he got in the car.

Anthony gave him a big kiss as he slid in the passenger's seat. "Happy Christmas."

"Gleðileg jól til þín."

Christmas music played softly on the car stereo as Anthony drove to Blackheath, and Anthony had hot chocolate in a thermos for Sören, which he took with mumbled thanks as he sat back and let himself unwind in the cozy warmth of the car, watching gentle snowfall over London at sunset.

When they pulled into the neighborhood in Blackheath, Anthony said, "One thing to be aware of before we go in. Under no circumstances should you discuss politics with my father."

Sören laughed. "Wasn't planning on it."

"Sören, you'd be surprised what my father can turn into a political discussion. I love my father, distant though we are, and I wouldn't call him racist or homophobic, but he can be a bit clueless about how the rest of the world lives. I have no idea sometimes how my parents ended up together, I'm guessing a lot of alcohol was involved."

Sören didn't know what he was expecting when they arrived, but Anthony's parents' house was like something out of Mary Poppins or Upstairs, Downstairs. The villa was four stories with a grey stone exterior, manicured flowerbeds sleeping for the winter. When Sören walked inside carrying the wrapped-up plates of cookies, Anthony's arm around him, Sören felt painfully conscious of Anthony's flawless elegance, wearing a black wool greatcoat with a navy cashmere scarf, a steel-blue cashmere sweater and dark blue jeans underneath, and Sören coming to the house straight from work in a black leather duster over his scrubs and the long-sleeved T-shirt he wore under his scrub top to cover his tattoos per NHS regulations. Sören also cringed at the reflection in the doorway - the long hours under high pressure showed on his face.

But the woman at the door greeted them warmly, seeming delighted to see Sören regardless of what he looked like. She was tall, slim, steel-grey hair in a pixie cut, green eyes framed by glasses, handsome rather than pretty, wearing a chocolate brown pantsuit with a beige camisole and a strand of cream Akoya pearls. "You must be Sören," she said in a deep, rich, well-cultured voice, immediately pulling him into a hug. "I'm Elaine."

"Nice to meet you," Sören said.

"Mum." Anthony hugged his mother.

"Come in, come in." Elaine gestured.

They went from a glass-topped porch to a hallway with glossy dark wood floors and a large white staircase. Sören's breath caught at the sash windows and stained glass, again at the plaster flowers at the tops of the grey walls, metalwork repurposed as sculptures and wall hangings, and the chandelier.

"This place is incredible," Sören said.

"I bought it when Anthony was four," Elaine said, "repaired and redesigned it."

"Oh... you're..."

"An architect," Elaine said, nodding. Elaine looked at the tinfoil-wrapped plates Sören was carrying. "Those are for us, dear?"

Sören nodded.

Elaine took them and Sören and Anthony followed her to the kitchen, removing their outerwear to hang on a coat rack. Anthony was carrying their overnight bags and set them down by the coat rack as well. The kitchen was done in a wood finish and had all-new, glossy appliances in cream. Judging from the smell and what was sitting atop the stove and on counters, Christmas dinner had been timed to be ready for when they arrived.

Sören felt self-conscious again. "I hope I didn't keep you guys waiting too long if you're hungry -"

"Nonsense. Here, pick out what you'd like and I'll fix your plates if you go have a seat in the dining room."

Sören looked around. He thought the bird was probably goose, and he didn't recognize much of anything else apart from greens and herbed, roasted potatoes which looked good. "Um, I'll have whatever Anthony is having." That sounded like a safe bet.

"All right, dear."

Anthony's father Roger was sitting at the dining table when they walked in - glass-topped, big enough to sit somewhere between eight to ten people, sturdy wooden chairs with floral carvings on the back. Sören stared at another chandelier and the pretty windows and gauzy curtains, mouth open, and then Roger rose from the dining table. Anthony favored his mother in looks and coloring - Roger had a mix of auburn and grey hair, and cool grey eyes, with a rather square-jawed, disapproving face. He was also shorter than Sören and Anthony, though of a build that suggested he had once been an athlete, now halted by obvious arthritis in his joints. He wore a dark red blazer and khakis, and the red plaid slippers suggested he'd spent the day relaxing indoors. He took Sören's hand and gave him a genuine smile before reaching out to pat his son on the back. "Anthony. And... Sören, is it? It's good to finally meet you."

Anthony pulled out a chair for Sören, who said "Takk," beaming as he sat down. Elaine came out with Sören and Anthony's plates first, and Sören was hungry enough that he wanted to start right away, but Anthony stayed Sören's hand with a look that said wait. Elaine came back with a plate for Roger and she asked, "What would you like to drink? We have cider, egg nog..."

"Egg nog," Sören said.

"Cider for me, and I will take a shot of whisky if you have it," Anthony said.

"What about you, Sören? We have scotch, gin and tonic, ale..."

"I'll have ale, yes, thank you." Sören smiled and Elaine smiled back.

When drinks were served, Elaine came back with her plate and when she started eating, that was the cue for everyone else. "Oh god, this is good," Sören said as he tried the goose.

Elaine grinned.

"So you've just come from work?" Roger said, sizing Sören up.

Sören nodded. "Had to work overnight Christmas Eve."

"Goodness, that's a long shift," Elaine said.

"Indeed. They expect you to work on Christmas?" Roger scowled.

"It's not like we can help the emergency trauma cases that come in," Sören said. "Someone's got to be around."

Anthony kicked Sören under the table, whispered, "Remember what I told you in the car," and then he said to his parents, "Sören has tonight off, all of tomorrow, and tomorrow night, so there's that."

"Well, you boys are welcome to stay," Elaine said.

"You sure it's not any trouble?" Sören made a moue.

"Sören, we have plenty of space, and Anthony still has his old room," Elaine said. "Besides, it's nice having family around, since my mum couldn't make it this year. She's in Tahiti for Christmas with Donovan." To Sören she explained, "Her companion."

Anthony leaned in and whispered, "Boytoy."

"I heard that, Cassius Anthony," Elaine said, giving him a stern look though her eyes registered amusement, while Roger looked decidedly uncomfortable. "Donovan is a very nice young man who makes your gran very happy."

"I didn't say there was anything wrong with that," Anthony said, going on the defensive. "On the contrary, I think society makes too much of a big deal over things like age differences between consenting adults. But let's call a spade a spade. I bristle at the word 'companion' being used for someone's partner for what should be obvious reasons."

"Anthony, this isn't the courtroom, dear," Elaine said. "Try the plum pudding, I used Mum's recipe."

There was Yorkshire pudding, and plum pudding, and figgy pudding, and for Roger, black pudding. "How many things do the English call pudding?" Sören asked, examining a bit of plum pudding on his fork.

Anthony flushed and tried not to laugh, and failed, working on his whisky.

"What do you usually have for Christmas dinner in Iceland, Sören?" Elaine asked.

"Well, it depends." Sören decided to not get in the tragic story of his life with Elaine and Roger. "I like a good leg of lamb, myself, but this goose is to die for." Sören tried the plum pudding. "Hey, this is pretty good. But... there's no plums in this?"

"No, there are no plums in plum pudding," Elaine said, seeming amused rather than offended by Sören's confusion. "It's got raisins."

Sören had seconds of the greens, potatoes, and goose, and Elaine gave him some of the rich, crispy goose skin which Sören really enjoyed, raving about it to Anthony's amusement. After the meal Sören insisted on helping with dishes, wearing Elaine down when she initially refused, and Anthony came in to load the dishwasher when things were rinsed.

Elaine began to take the tinfoil off the cookies Sören had brought. "Oh, these look delicious."

"I baked them myself. That's piparkökur, ginger cookies, spesíur which is sugar cookies, and lakkrístoppar - meringues, licorice with chocolate."

"I'm taking one now." Elaine had one of the lakkrístoppar.

"Excellent choice, those are my favorite." Sören grinned.

Elaine leaned on the kitchen counter and made a face of bliss as she ate a cookie. "My god, Sören. This is wonderful. And so thoughtful!"

"I didn't want to come empty-handed," Sören said.

When the dishwasher was started, Sören and Anthony followed Elaine out to the reception room - Elaine brought the cookies - where Roger was having a glass of scotch and Anthony had a second one. Sören and Anthony sat on a couch together across from Anthony's parents, kicking their feet up, and when Anthony put an arm around Sören, Sören leaned against him.

"So Anthony tells me you met at National, when he was doing investigative research for a court case," Elaine said.

Sören nodded.

"How long have you been there? And in England?"

"The NHS sponsored my visa, I came over in mid 2010."

"Do you like it here? I've seen pictures of Iceland, it's a beautiful country, you must get homesick..."

"Now and again, but this is home now," Sören said, and took Anthony's hand as if to say you are home now. Anthony got the message and squeezed Sören's hand, thumb rubbing over Sören's ring finger.

"You think you'll be with the NHS for awhile, or go private sector?"

"Probably NHS as long as I can," Sören said. He skirted around the issue of Scandinavian values, not wanting to get into political discussion with Roger. "They work us hard, but it's... it's a calling. I knew I wanted to be a doctor since I was small, and a brain doctor when I learned about the different specialties of medicine."

"That's quite a calling, to feel it so young," Elaine said. "Did anything prompt that?"

"My mother died," Sören said matter-of-factly. "Brain aneurysm. I was almost six."

"I'm sorry," Elaine said, and Roger nodded sympathy.

Sören hadn't wanted to be a downer on the holiday. "You're an architect, you said?"

"Yes," Elaine said. "Sometime I'll get out my portfolio and show you my work, if you're interested. Like you, it was an early calling, though for different reasons. I was gifted a dollhouse and it quickly got to be too small for the amount of dolls I had, and my mum said I had to wait till my next birthday to get one - she had money but didn't want to indulge me too much. So I made additions myself. I drew up a plan and constructed it from materials on hand. My friends were impressed and wanted me to make dollhouses for them. Then I was reading stories and my mind was visualizing everything I was reading and I drew the houses from my imagination. It took off from there, really."

"My story is far less exciting," Roger said. "I'm an accountant. Well, was... I'm retired now, though I can still help crunch numbers when it needs doing for family or friends."

"Not exciting but it paid the bills," Elaine said, "and left you with time for more interesting hobbies, which in my opinion is important, life is for living, after all." Elaine turned back to Sören. "When it's springtime you'll have to see Roger's garden."

"Oh yes." Roger chuckled. "That garden is my pride and joy just like this house is Elaine's."

"And all work and no play makes life dull," Elaine said. "I assume you have hobbies too, Sören?"

"I draw, sometimes I paint," Sören said. "I read. I liked to go hiking when I lived in Iceland, go out and be one with nature."

"Oh! Maybe if I show you my portfolio, you can show me your art sometime?" Elaine's face lit up.

"Maybe." Sören fidgeted in his seat.

Anthony elbowed him. "Sören, your art is good. It deserves to be shown to more people." He looked at his mother. "Mum, you have to see his work, he is very gifted."

"You're gifted in the kitchen too," Elaine said, having another cookie. She gave one of the sugar cookies to Roger, who brightened up and had more. "You baked these yourself."

"I'm glad you like them," Sören said.

"I feel a bit bad that we didn't get you anything for Christmas now," Elaine said, "but I take it Anthony explained to you we don't spend money on each other - I have everything I want, Anthony can afford to get himself anything he wants, so I'd rather a donation to charity be made in my name."

"He did tell me that and I'm OK with that," Sören said. He added honestly, "I'd just feel obligated to get you something for Christmas because then baked goods wouldn't really cut it, and holiday shopping is stressful for me even when I'm not working the kind of hours I do."

"Yes, that's part of why I instituted this policy a few years ago. Anthony already has to do little token shopping for his colleagues, I don't see the point of putting additional stress on him trying to guess what to get us," Elaine said.

"I still got Sören a little something," Anthony said.

"Well, good. For your partner, definitely that's the right thing to do."

"He wouldn't let me be extravagant," Anthony said, giving Sören a look, and then, smiling, he said, "Books of poetry. Whitman, Neruda, Eliot, Byron..."

"Oh, good." Elaine sounded relieved by that, and Sören was surprised, but didn't press it. "Yes, it's good that you have someone who..." Elaine seemed to catch herself. "Reads." Elaine sipped on egg nog. "What about you, Sören?"

"I got Anthony a tie," Sören said, feeling a twinge of self-consciousness.

"It was an Armani tie," Anthony quickly added. "It will go with every suit I own." Anthony grinned. "And the Yule Cat won't eat me."

"The..." Elaine raised an eyebrow, and the look of genuine puzzlement on her face made Anthony laugh, which made Sören laugh too.

Sören explained the Icelandic Christmas folklore to Elaine and Roger, and Roger looked a bit perplexed while Elaine clapped her hands and laughed uproariously.

"I can see why you're such a kind, thoughtful young man," Elaine said, "if you had the threat of being fed to hungry trolls hanging over your head as a lad." She winked, eyes full of mischief. Then she turned to Anthony. "Did you know about any of this beforehand?"

"He just told me about it yesterday," Anthony said.

"I know I said I didn't want gifts, but now I'm concerned the Yule Cat will eat us in our sleep," Elaine said with a smirk.

"Jæja, that's why I made all those Christmas cookies," Sören said, though it wasn't really. "We can't possibly eat them all in one night so there'll be enough left over and that will hopefully distract Jólakötturinn and he'll forget all about eating you."

"Oh, I love the sound of that," Elaine said. "Say it again?"

"Jólakötturinn," Sören said, amused.

"You have such a beautiful language," Elaine said.

"If you like the sound of that, we have a song," Sören said, feeling emboldened by the ale he'd had. "Should I sing it to you?"

"Please."

Sören took a deep breath, cleared his throat, and sang the traditional song in its haunting, melancholy minor key.

Þið kannist við jólaköttinn
Sá köttur var gríðarstór
Fólk vissi ekki hvaðan hann kom
Eða hvert hann fór

Hann glennti upp glyrnurnar sínar
Glóandi báðar tvær
Það var ekki heiglum hent
Að horfa í þær

Kamparnir beittir sem broddar
Upp úr bakinu kryppa há
Og klærnar á loðinni löpp
Var ljótt að sjá

Því var það að konurnar kepptust
Við kamba og vefstól og rokk
Og prjónuðu litfagran lepp
Eða lítinn sokk...


When the song was finished, Elaine stood up and clapped. "Bravo. You have a beautiful voice," she said.

Sören's cheeks flushed.

Anthony gave Sören a squeeze and tousled his curls. Sören grinned at him, and grabbed a cookie and put it in Anthony's mouth before he could be tempted to snog him in front of the parents.

That urge intensified as Elaine took Sören on a proper tour of the house, ending with the patio doors that led out to the garden, a winter wonderland glowing softly with fairy lights, and Sören noticed there was a mistletoe hanging right above the patio doors. When Elaine turned to go back into the kitchen, Anthony grabbed Sören and kissed him hard. Sören gave a little moan into the kiss, melting against him.

"What was that for?" Sören asked when they pulled apart.

"You and your native language." And as they marched towards the kitchen, Anthony's arms wrapped around Sören's waist, walking close behind him, and Sören could feel he was half-hard. Sören grinned.

In the kitchen, having a last cup of egg nog, Anthony stood behind Sören - who knew it was to conceal his arousal - and Elaine said, "If you boys need anything, help yourselves, all right?" She leaned in to kiss her son's cheek, and then she kissed Sören's cheek as well and patted him. "I'm so glad you came for Christmas and it'll be nice having you here tomorrow! Roger and I are going out for a bit tomorrow afternoon but we'll be home in the evening, you boys I'm sure can find things to pass the time, we have a large DVD collection, Anthony's old gaming consoles are in his room..." She strode off. "Good night, dears. Sleep well."

Anthony's old room was on the second floor, far away from everything else on the second floor except the bathroom. The second floor had a library and second sitting room with a home theatre and a grand piano and a liquor cabinet, large but more intimate than the reception room on the first floor. Sören let out a low whistle at the piano. "Who plays?"

"I do," Anthony said. He pushed Sören along from the sitting room towards his bedroom.

Anthony claimed that his old bedroom was left the way he'd had it when leaving for Cambridge in 1998, apart from the TV being replaced by a flat-screen. He had a bed that was just big enough to accommodate two adults with a somewhat tight fit, a dark wood frame and headboard that matched the wooden floor. The duvet had a print of a galaxy and nebulas, and the pillowcases and curtains matched, which Sören smiled at. Sören's smile broadened at the poster of Bush, prominently featuring Gavin Rossdale sweaty and shirtless - "that is so 90s it hurts," Sören said - and then he had a gigglefit, clapping when Anthony turned on two lava lamps and larger glow lamp that changed color as it rotated.

The flat-screen TV was on a handsome shelf unit that had several old gaming consoles and a bin of ancient video games underneath. Sören's laughter rang out when he saw Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. "Oh my GOD," Sören wheezed. "We totally need to play sometime."

"You want to play now?" Anthony grinned.

They got in their pajamas and Anthony set it up, and they sat down with two controllers to play Super Mario. "So what are the stakes here?" Sören said with a raised eyebrow.

"Whoever wins gets to top," Anthony said, smirking.

"You're on."

Two and a half hours later, Anthony won, and Sören felt heat flood him. Anthony wasted no time in claiming his prize, kissing Sören roughly, undoing his pajama top button by button.

When they were both naked, Anthony turned off the lights, put on the lava lamps and the color change lamp, and then queued up "Alright" by Jamiroquai, giving Sören a naughty look that made Sören howl, before Anthony joined Sören on the bed.

"Hi," Anthony said.

"Hi," Sören said.

They kissed.

"Come here often?" Anthony raised an eyebrow.

Sören gigglesnorted. "I do now, apparently."

Anthony pulled Sören into his arms and kissed him deeply, and Sören moaned into the kiss, cock springing to life. Jamiroquai played softly in the background as their hands roamed, cocks rubbing together, kissing sweetly and teasingly, then fiercely and hungrily, getting more and more lost in desire. Sören wondered if Anthony had ever done this with anyone else in his bed, and as if he read Sören's mind, Anthony paused and said, "I feel like I'm making up for lost time."

"Oh?"

"I didn't date, when I was younger and had this room. I wasn't going to try to date girls, that felt like lying, and I wasn't bold enough to date boys in the late 90s."

"Understandable." Sören stroked Anthony's cheek. "Well, you've got me now."

"And you are so much hotter than anyone I went to school with." Anthony kissed him hard. "By leaps and bounds." His voice got lower, huskier. "Plus, your accent."

"You really have a fetish for me speaking Icelandic, too, don't you?"

"I do." Anthony nibbled on him. "And..." He kissed the tip of Sören's nose. "It was so cute, the way you went on about the Yule Cat."

"Awwwww."

"Although..." Anthony chuckled. "It makes me feel bad I didn't get you a clothing item, as well. If I'd known about that part of your culture sooner, I would have gotten you... like... sexy underwear or something."

Sören giggled. "Oh myyyyy." He waggled his eyebrows. "So I take it that means you'd like to see me in sexy underwear?"

"Well, I'd prefer to see you out of sexy underwear..." Anthony's cheeks flushed, and they laughed harder. "But yes, I think you wearing something like a thong would be incredibly hot. Especially if you were... you know. Wearing that for me, under your work clothes, in anticipation of seeing me when your shift ended."

"Mmmmm." Sören kissed him, his cock twinging. "I like that idea too."

"Good." Anthony kissed him back. "Perhaps next year that'll be my gift to keep you safe from the Yule Cat. But in the meantime..." He leered. "The Yule Cat can't eat you if I eat you first."

Sören gigglesnorted, laughing so hard his sides hurt. He stopped laughing when Anthony began kissing and licking him all over, teasing his nipples, his stomach, his thighs, and he let out a loud moan when Anthony took Sören's cock into his mouth. Anthony let it slip and gave Sören a look. "We have to be kind of quiet," he said. "Mum and Dad are right upstairs. My music's not loud enough to bother them but that is."

Sören bit back a moan as Anthony swallowed him down again.

After a few minutes of Anthony sucking him, with mischief in his eyes Anthony let go of Sören's cock and kissed and nibbled Sören's thighs, making Sören fight off another moan. Anthony licked around the rim of Sören's opening a few times, Sören whimpering into his hand, and he gasped when Anthony's tongue speared him. It took Sören everything he had to not howl and scream as Anthony's tongue rubbed inside him, teasing the sweet spot just right, bringing him to that edge right away and keeping him there, Sören utterly lost in pleasure.

"Oh, god," Sören ground out. "Fuck, that's so good..."

"I love doing this to you." Anthony's tongue brushed around the rim of Sören's channel again before plunging back inside.

"You have the most amazing tongue." Sören gasped and shuddered. He clutched Anthony's head, and his hands slid down to Anthony's shoulders, nails digging in, which made Anthony shiver and moan into him, licking harder, faster. Sören gave a little whimper and Anthony slapped his thigh to say quiet.

Then Sören let out a moan, as Anthony's tongue slowed down, deliberately tormenting him. Anthony laughed softly. "Shhhhh," he cautioned before he slipped his tongue back into Sören.

"I can't help it," Sören whispered. Then Sören laughed too, at the surreality of this. "God, I can't believe we're doing this. It was one thing for your mum to say it was OK to spend the night, knowing we'd be sharing a bed, but this..." Sören chuckled. "You eating my arse in your old bed, that's pretty fucking kinky."

"Yes, it is." Anthony smiled at him before tonguing him some more.

"So kinky." Sören shivered. "So, so naughty. This is probably the naughtiest, kinkiest thing I've ever done."

Anthony stopped licking for a moment, a look of pure evil on his face. "Oh, I can make it kinkier."

"Can you now."

Anthony got up, with Sören making a whimper of protest. He grabbed his bathrobe, which made Sören whimper again and cry out, "Please," and Anthony gave a harsh "shhhh" before he left the bedroom, leaving Sören laying there frustrated. Sören heard the sound of Anthony going down the stairs, and then moving around on the first floor, and then coming back upstairs. Sören idly stroked himself, waiting, and Anthony came back in carrying the cashmere scarf he'd been wearing outside. Sören gave him a bemused look and Anthony gave Sören a look of mock disapproval as he closed the door behind him.

"Did I say you could touch yourself while I was gone?" Anthony asked.

"No, but..."

"Well, it appears my idea was prescient." Anthony took off his bathrobe, freeing his very hard, very slick cock - the sight of it made Sören lick his lips - and he got on the bed with the scarf, grabbed one of Sören's arms, and began to tie Sören's wrist to the headboard. "If this isn't OK, let me know -"

"Oh, shit." Sören laughed, his cock jolting with need, another bead of precum dripping out of him, sliding down the shaft. "Fuck, that's hot."

Anthony grinned, and took Sören's other arm and bound the other wrist. He surveyed his handiwork and then he said to Sören, "Try to move your arms, I want to make sure that isn't too loose or too tight."

Sören did as requested. "It's fine."

"Good." With that, Anthony dove back down between Sören's legs.

He ate Sören more slowly than before, and Sören desperately tried and failed to not cry out, only half-succeeding, making tiny moans and whimpers, gasping, panting. Anthony reveled in the power he had over Sören, teasing him and teasing him, dangling Sören helplessly at the edge of orgasm but not taking him over just yet, getting Sören more and more sensitized, watching him lose control as Sören bucked against his face, panting, gasping. Sören had never been tied up before - he'd certainly heard about it, and been curious about it, but he'd never trusted any of his prior casual sex partners for something like this. Here, there was trust, and being bound, Sören felt incredibly free, going even deeper into pleasure and lust, feeling more sexual hunger than he'd ever felt in his life, giving Anthony the gift of watching him transform in the throes of passion, Anthony's eyes watching him intently.

Anthony got Sören closer and closer to orgasm, and before he could bring Sören off just from his tongue, he stopped. Sören almost cried, as pent up as he was, and he gave a particularly loud moan as Anthony lapped up the precum flowing down Sören's aching, needy cock. Anthony kissed and nibbled his way up, and he reached for the lubricant he'd somehow grabbed when he got his bathrobe. He readied them both, and then he began to push inside Sören. He watched Sören's eyes as he worked his way in, Sören breathing harder as he was stretched. At last, when Anthony was all the way inside, he claimed Sören's mouth, kissing him fiercely, and they both moaned into the kiss.

"I love you," Anthony husked, and he began to thrust.

He went neither too slowly nor as fast and hard as he could go - just enough to build momentum and make Sören feel like he could come any moment now, but not enough to make him come just yet. Just enough to keep teasing, building on Sören's need. Anthony kissed Sören's mouth again and again, tongues teasing, tasting. He kissed and licked Sören's neck, kissed and lapped and suckled and nibbled on Sören's nipples, playing with the rings, in between his fingers walking, hands stroking over Sören's chest and stomach and hips and thighs. Feeling Anthony's hands on him reinforced that Sören was tied up, bound, fully under Anthony's control. When Anthony rose, propping up one of Sören's legs on his shoulder, fucking Sören harder, Sören looked up at him adoringly, worshipful, and Anthony reached to stroke Sören's face, his own eyes loving, before the fierceness returned, pounding into Sören even harder, and Sören matched his rhythm, rolling his hips back at Anthony, lost in the push and pull, the give and take, pleasure building higher and higher.

It didn't take long, once Anthony got going, for Sören to feel himself hurtling to that point of no return. Anthony's left hand wrapped around Sören's cock, stroking in time with his thrusts, as his right hand played over Sören's flesh, from his thigh to his chest. Sören heard himself whimper as he writhed against the binds, rocked his hips back at Anthony, giving as good as he got. When Anthony slowed down - maddening, a wicked look on his face - Sören let out a sob.

"Please," Sören pleaded.

"Tell me in your native language," Anthony growled.

"There isn't really a word for 'please' in Icelandic." Sören had to learn some social graces the hard way when he moved to England.

"Beg for it, then."

Sören shivered. "Láttu mig koma."

Anthony gave a deep groan - now it was Sören's turn to raise an eyebrow at the noise. Anthony still kept the pace slow, tormenting Sören, but Sören knew from the look in his eyes, and feeling Anthony tremble as he thrust, that it was tormenting them both.

Sören bit his lower lip, feeling a small glow of victory even as he was the one being conquered. "Ég þarf að koma. Ég þarf að fokking. Koma. Ég þarfnast þess erfiðara. Hraðar. Meira. Gefðu mér það."

"Oh, god." Anthony shuddered and gave another groan. Now he gave into Sören's pleas, slamming into him.

So much for keeping it down, Sören thought to himself with a small smile at the sound of their bodies smacking together. He too let out a moan at the feel of Anthony's balls slapping his ass, and sighed as Anthony's cock worked magic on his prostate. He was co close. "Ó, FOKK, bara svona. Bara si svona, ástin mín. Svo gott. Svo gott, næstum þar, rétt þar."

Anthony made a primal, guttural noise. "Sören." He was shaking now, his breath coming in gasps.

Sören moved his arms so the scarf tightened on his wrists, really wanting to feel the binds, reinforcing his surrender, his trust. "Rétt þar, rétt þar, taktu það, taktu mig."

"Oh god, Sören..."

"Taktu mig, taktu mig, ég er þín, láttu mig koma, láttu mig koma fyrir þig." Sören let out a whimper - he was shaking now too, thighs quivering, balls tightening, the rubbing on his prostate and stroking of his cock at last hitting that perfect note that was about to send him flying. "Fer að koma fyrir þig, fyrir þig, fyrir þig, fyrir þig, ástin mín, ástin mín."

"Sören." Their eyes met. "Come for me."

Sören opened his mouth and no sound came out, trying to contain his cry. His entire body twitched, pleasure surging through him as he shot over Anthony's chest, rewarded a few seconds later by the feeling of Anthony spending into him, hearing Anthony give a shuddery sigh, watching the ecstasy on his face as he trembled. Sören shot over him again, and again, sighing deeply as the release throbbed and throbbed inside and out, over and through. He had never come so hard, felt so radiant as he came. He felt the smile light up his face and Anthony smiled too as he settled down on top of Sören, tenderly stroking Sören's cheek, petting his curls, kissing his brow then his mouth. Anthony shivered with an aftershock, groaning into the kiss as he shot into Sören again, and Sören gave another happy little sigh.

Anthony unbound Sören's wrists and Sören flexed them before wrapping his arms around his lover, holding him tight. Anthony rested in him and their legs twined together. For a few minutes they just held each other in silence except for the thunder of their heartbeats, ragged breath slowing down back to normal. Finally Sören broke the silence by saying, softly, "That was fucking amazing."

"I've been wanting to try that with you for awhile but was waiting for the right time," Anthony said, kissing Sören's cheek.

"How long was 'awhile'?"

"Honestly? First night you were over I thought about it. Extensive body mods indicate a high pain tolerance and possible masochism, and there were certain tells in the way you were with me that you have strong submissive tendencies."

Sören laughed so hard he snorted. "Wow. Dude. Do you size everyone up, like, constantly?" He didn't know if he was impressed or terrified, or a bit of both.

"It is literally my job." Anthony grinned. "Sometimes, there are additional bonuses to being observant, beyond drawing blood in the courtroom."

"I guess so." Sören cackled. Then he raised an eyebrow. "So, like... how did you get into... this?" He gestured to the scarf.

"I told you Europeans are interesting," Anthony said. "I had some adventures during my time abroad in my very early twenties. I found out I like certain things, and am less keen on others."

"So you wouldn't want to be tied up yourself."

"I am not remotely submissive, no."

"And yet, you picked me up at my job and not, like... a BDSM club or something."

"No." Anthony took a deep breath and met Sören's eyes, looking ready to deliver a small speech, as if he'd been expecting Sören's curiosity and had been internally preparing what he'd say for this moment. "I like doing this once in awhile - maybe a little more than once in awhile - as a bit of novelty. It's fun. I haven't been looking for a submissive specifically because there's what we did just now and there's lifestyle BDSM, and I'm not really into the lifestyle. Trying to meet a partner via 'the scene' means weeding out people who want a full-time dominant, which isn't what I want - I don't want a full-time submissive who I have to give orders to constantly. Part of the fun for me is someone who's independent-minded, strong-willed, perhaps even a bit defiant, and getting them to submit, to surrender. And you, of course, challenged me right away, when we met." Anthony chuckled and said, "You still challenge me."

Sören stuck his tongue out to demonstrate Anthony's point.

Anthony smiled indulgently and went on. "Also, trying to find a partner via 'the scene', I also have to weed out people who want heavy pain which I'm not into giving, people who may not want a full-time dom or pain but may still be submissive enough to be 'pillow princesses' and expect me to do all the work in bed while they lay there. That, and having a bit of discretion about where I spend my time and in whose company, well... I decided that finding something like this would either happen organically or not at all. Tying someone up and having my way with them isn't mandatory for me to get my rocks off, it's just a nice to-have, sometimes."

"It's very nice." Sören laughed softly. "I didn't expect to be as into that as I was, wow."

"I had a feeling you would like it but you still surprised me with how much." Anthony kissed him. "A pleasant surprise, to be sure."

Sören kissed him back. "Very pleasant."

"Very." Kiss. "Very." Kiss. "Pleasant." Anthony tousled Sören's curls, stroked his face. "We'll have to do that again."

Sören was getting randy again. "How about now?"

Anthony laughed. "Right now?"

Sören nodded eagerly. Then he grinned as he felt Anthony's cock start to come to life again inside him.

"You are insatiable," Anthony said, kissing Sören.

"You make me insatiable." Sören kissed him hard. "Please."

"I don't know." Anthony propped himself on one elbow, smirking, the fingers of his free hand teasing Sören's nipple in slow, lazy circles. "I don't know if a naughty boy like you should get everything he wants on Christmas..."

"Oh my fucking god, Anthony, myndirðu bara gefa mér haninn."

Anthony growled and nibbled Sören's lower lip. He pulled out of Sören, with Sören making a little whimper of protest, and Anthony held a finger to Sören's lips. "Shhhhh."

"They've probably already heard us -"

"That doesn't mean they need to keep hearing us. Shhhh."

For some reason even that was turning Sören on, and Anthony watched with amusement in his eyes as Sören's cock wiggled at him. Then, in stern domination mode, Anthony ground out, "Turn over on your stomach, face down, arse up."

Sören did as he was told. Anthony took the scarf again, and Sören's hole twitched with anticipation, wondering if he was going to be tied up again - and then Anthony surprised him by tying the scarf around Sören's neck, and he gave it a little tug as he positioned himself behind Sören. With the end of the scarf in Anthony's hand, gently pulling on it, the scarf was now a makeshift leash. Sören loved that, moaning into the pillows.

Anthony took him from behind and when he was all the way inside he tugged on the scarf-leash with his left hand, slapped Sören's ass with the right. "So naughty."

"God, yes." Sören let out a gasp and rubbed his ass against Anthony.

Anthony began to thrust, slowly. He shoved his fingers in Sören's mouth, still holding onto the scarf-leash with the other hand. Sören moaned around the fingers in his mouth. "You want it all the time, don't you?"

"Mhm."

"Begging for it like a little bitch in heat."

He withdrew his fingers from Sören's mouth for a moment and Sören took that as his cue to beg. "Ó guð, já, ég get ekki fengið nóg af hananum þínum inni í mér, ég þarfnast þín svo mikið, þú verður að taka mig og ríða mér og láta mig koma og koma og koma og koma og koma og koma og koma."

Anthony gave a deep groan and shoved his fingers back in Sören's mouth, fucking him harder; Sören whimpered around his fingers and Anthony tugged on the scarf-leash, slapped Sören's ass. "That's right. You beg like a little bitch, you're going to get fucked like one."

Sören moaned around Anthony's fingers and rocked his hips back at Anthony, fucking himself on the cock gliding in and out of him, overcome by hot, feral sexual need. Nothing else mattered, just getting fucked, being taken.

Anthony leaned in to nibble and lick the back of Sören's neck, his shoulder, knowing how sensitive Sören was there, laughing softly at Sören's little whines around his fingers. "Yes. I love seeing how much you want this."

Sören nodded and let Anthony's fingers slip from his mouth. "God, yes. Need it so bad."

Anthony slapped his ass again. "That's because you're mine." He bit the sweet spot where Sören's neck and shoulder met.

That did it. Sören slammed against him, howling into the pillows until Anthony's fingers were back in his mouth. Anthony matched Sören's wild rhythm and overtook it, driving into Sören as hard as Sören could take it. It felt beyond kinky, doing this with his parents right upstairs, not caring, so far gone in their lust that it didn't matter if the entire world heard them and knew what they were doing. They still tried to keep the moans down, but their bodies slapped together, the bed rocked against the wall. Sören was right on that edge again, Anthony's cock beyond delicious at this position, this pattern.

"Mine," Anthony insisted.

Sören nodded and whimpered around the fingers in his mouth, whimpered again at the pull of the scarf-leash.

"Mine." And then he took his fingers out of Sören's mouth, tilted Sören's head to his, and kissed him, fingers stroking Sören's beard, tracing the outline of his lower lip. His hand slid lower, fingers grazing a nipple before his arm held Sören tight, hand resting on Sören's heart.

It was the perfect storm of sensation, feeling, and hotness. Three thrusts later Sören was gone, shaking as he spilled into the sheets, the world dissolving with every spurt of his cock. Anthony felt him contracting and another three thrusts he was done too, collapsing onto Sören's back shuddering, gasping.

"I love you," Sören whispered.

"I love you." Then Anthony shook with silent laughter.

"What's so funny?"

"...We're going to have to launder these sheets tomorrow."

"God." Sören gigglesnorted. "Like your parents didn't already hear us."

"Well, hopefully not."

"Admit it, you liked the forbidden thrill of it." Sören and Anthony kissed again. "Like I'm a date you brought home or we're... having a sleepover." Sören crinkled his nose and bit his lower lip. "A naughty sleepover."

"So naughty I'd be surprised if... what's their names... that troll couple... doesn't come all the way from Iceland to put us in a stew."

"Well, Anthony, just remember... they can't eat us if we eat each other first."

They laughed at that, and Anthony stole another kiss before he pulled out, unwrapped the scarf from Sören's neck, and took Sören into his arms. Sören snuggled against his chest, being pet, and then Sören said, "Thank you, you know."

"For?"

"Well, what we did tonight but also..." Sören made a vague hand gesture. "I worried you'd think the tie was lame, but you were a good sport about it."

"It was from you, so that in and of itself makes it precious, and you made it memorable, too. That tie will forever be my good luck charm in honor of when you saved my life from the Yule Cat."

Sören giggled. "OK, well... so long as you're not secretly thinking it's stupid..."

"It's not. I would have politely told you not to get me anything next year if I thought that. To be honest, I was probably more worried about the books, than your worry about the tie."

"Really. Even though you quoted some of that to me and I loved it."

"Even though, yes." Anthony nodded solemnly.

Sören thought again about Elaine's reaction to Anthony's gift and Sören's reception, her obvious relief that Anthony was with someone who reads. He thought about asking about it but got the sense now was not the time or place. It was already starting to not be the time or place for words in general, Sören feeling the sleepiness settle in after a long day and two amazing orgasms.

"All I wanted for Christmas was you," Anthony husked, kissing the tip of his nose.

"You got me." Sören kissed him. "Gleðileg jól, elskan mín."


_


For once in his life, Anthony Wyatt-Jones had not set the alarm to get up, sleeping in. Sören saw it was just after eleven AM when he and Anthony mutually stirred. Anthony looked at the clock, said, "Jesus," and gave a guilty grin, chuckling.

They put on pajamas, since they had nowhere they needed to be. Anthony went down the hall to the linen closet, came in with fresh sheets, and he and Sören stripped the bed and put on new sheets, then carried the cum-stained bedding to the ground floor, where there was a washer and dryer in the pantry. Sören remembered that Elaine said she and Roger would be gone for a few hours in the afternoon, and sure enough, it was just the two of them in the house.

Sören assembled some of the assorted cookies he'd made on a plate and he and Anthony took it upstairs to the sitting room down the hall from Anthony's bedroom. "Sören, are you eating biscuits for breakfast?" Anthony gave him a mock stern look.

"We're eating cookies... biscuits... whatever... for breakfast, because we're motherfucking adults."

Anthony laughed, sitting next to Sören, and Sören put a cookie in his mouth.

They cuddled on the couch, watching TV but not really paying attention, both of them in that lazy calm space of finally having some down time from their respective jobs and just zoning out. Sören's gaze kept drifting to the grand piano by the window and finally he said to Anthony, "So, you play that thing?"

"Yes. It's... been awhile. I'm kind of rusty."

"I'd still like to hear it."

Anthony sat down at the piano, and Sören took a seat next to him. Anthony turned beetroot, smiling shyly, looking almost boyish rather than the suave, commanding professional Sören was used to. It was an adorable transformation, and Sören reassuringly took his hand and kissed it.

Anthony quietly considered for a few minutes what he was going to play, and then he said, "Ah," flexed his hands and fingers, and started. It took Sören a few seconds but then he recognized the piano instrumental to Billie Holiday's "I Wished On the Moon For You", which played in Anthony's car the night after Sören bottomed for him for the first time. It was not a coincidence that after the next big step of trust, Anthony was playing this for him now - trusting Sören in turn, showing him his heart, his soul - and it made Sören's heart soar, brought tears to his eyes.

When the song was over Sören pulled Anthony into a kiss. Anthony's eyes were damp too and Sören grabbed him and kissed him again, harder.

Fresh sheets on the bed be damned, Sören and Anthony stumbled down the hall to the bedroom, kissing all the way, not able to get their pajamas off fast enough before they sank down on the bed. Sören shoved Anthony down on his back, got the lube and readied them both, straddled Anthony's hips, sank down and rode him. Anthony looked up at Sören with all the trust and adoration in his eyes that Sören had tried to express through his, last night, and Sören tousled his hair, stroked his face, slid his hands down Anthony's chest to rest on his heart as he bucked on Anthony's cock, expressing his love and passion with his body, needing them to be one flesh, joined as deeply and intimately as two people could be.

They came together hard, crying out loud now that they were alone in the house, and they kissed passionately as they drifted down from their climax, holding each other, rocking. After petting and tender little kisses the need rose in them again and Sören slipped out of Anthony, kissing him feverishly as his fingers worked inside Anthony's passage, preparing him. Anthony guided Sören's cock to him and Sören took him, slowly. Laying atop him, looking into his eyes, Sören thrust into him, breathing his breath, at last kissing him hard enough to take his breath away. Anthony grabbed onto Sören for dear life and gave it back to him, and Sören stroked Anthony's cock in time with the motion of his own cock in and out of him, Sören hearing himself moan as the silken heat enveloped him, consumed him, too delicious to last much longer.

When Sören got to that point of no return, kissing and kissing and kissing him, he pulled back, met Anthony's eyes again, and growled, "Komdu fyrir mig."

"Sören." Anthony gave in and let go, coming with a cry.

Sören filled him a few seconds later, shouting with the force of his own release. They were almost sobbing as they shook and gasped in each other's arms, Anthony spending over Sören's sweat-damp flesh as Sören continued shooting inside him. When it was over Sören's head was buried in Anthony's chest, listening to the drum of his heartbeat, its fierce rhythm echoing Sören's own, pounding in his ears.

They snuggled up together, falling into a nap even though they hadn't been awake terribly long - their bodies knew they needed the rest. They were still sleeping when they heard a polite knock at the bedroom door.

"Boys, dinner's almost ready."

They looked at the clock again. It was quarter to five. "Oh shit," Sören said.

They got back in pajamas and shambled downstairs. Anthony threw the sheets in the dryer - Elaine noticed as she was walking past that they were laundering the bedding, but did not say anything. However, when they both sat down to dinner, both Sören and Anthony sat gingerly, and Elaine gave them a knowing look as Roger shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Anthony tried to keep a poker face, and Sören gave a guilty grin, feeling heat flood his cheeks. Elaine and Anthony spent most of dinner talking about Elaine's latest architect job and what Anthony could divulge about the case waiting for him after the holidays, but every now and again Anthony's and Sören's eyes would meet and they would try to not fall into hysterics, exchanging little smirks before Anthony continued conversation.

"I'm sorry," Sören told Elaine after dinner as he insisted on helping with the dishes again.

"It's quite all right, dear," Elaine said, patting him. "I knew when I invited you both to spend the night that you're adults. You didn't disturb us... much."

"Oh god." Sören's face was on fire. When he calmed down he said, more seriously, "I feel like I should say thank you, you know, for being so cool about... well. Me being your son's boyfriend."

"This is 2011," Elaine said. "Besides... as an architect, I have colleagues and clients who are gay or bisexual - aesthetes, you see - and my own mother was an artist, a bit of a bonne vivante, her very best friend was a gay man. So I've never had a problem with gay people, just the opposite. But even if I hadn't already had so much exposure to it where it doesn't phase me... you make my son happy. I can see it in his eyes, and the way he is with you. If you can give that boy some peace, I don't care if you're male, female, black, white, purple, from Iceland, India, or from the planet Neptune."

Sören couldn't resist, needing levity in the moment of heightened emotion, not wanting to get choked up around Elaine. "What if I told you I'm secretly all of those things at once?"

Elaine laughed, delighted. "This is why my son loves you, Sören." Elaine kissed his cheek.

After watching Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home in the sitting room, Anthony spooning Sören, arms wrapped around him, they showered together and went to bed. As snow fell outside, to the glow of lava lamps, they made sweet, slow love together, first a languid sixty-nine and then Sören taking Anthony, at last Anthony taking Sören. Utterly spent, they snuggled, holding each other's hands.

"I have to work tomorrow morning," Sören grumbled, "so we need to set the alarm."

Anthony nodded. "My chambers re-open on Monday the second. I'm almost suspicious of this free time, I'm not used to it."

"D'you have plans for New Year's Eve?" That was falling on a Saturday night.

"You, if you're free."

"I am, I work overnight shift on Friday but I'll be out on Saturday afternoon. We should ring in the new year together."

"We should."

Sören snickered. "2012, the so-called end of the world."

"We may make that prophecy come true with all the earth-shattering orgasms."

Sören gigglesnorted, and Anthony laughed too. Sören kissed him, smiling, so happy to be with someone who got his humor and was very much the same way. "We're terrible."

"We are." Anthony kissed him back. "And so very, very good together."

Sören kissed him harder and the passion rose in them again, Anthony rolling Sören onto his back, Sören's arms and legs wrapping around him, opening to welcome his lover inside, needing to feel him - feel them, the promise of together - once more.

Chapter Text

Sören whined as the alarm went off. Anthony laughed softly and rained little kisses over his face. Sören gave another whine in protest as Anthony got up - he was so cozy - and then a few minutes later Anthony was gently rubbing his shoulder and Sören smelled coffee. He sat up and took a freshly steaming cup fixed the way he liked it, out of Anthony's hands.

"I woke up before the alarm went off and started a pot," Anthony said, sitting on the edge of the bed, tousling Sören's curls.

Sören scowled at the time. Then he managed a little smile for Anthony. "You're a love."

"Well, I love you." Anthony leaned in and kissed the top of Sören's head. "And I wish you didn't have to go to work tonight."

"You and me both. At least I get tomorrow night free." It was Friday, December thirtieth; tomorrow night was New Year's Eve.

"At least there's that." Anthony sat, watching Sören sip his coffee. "Any thoughts on what you want to do to ring in the New Year?"

"You?"

Anthony laughed. "Besides that."

Sören rubbed his beard. "I honestly hadn't thought about it, since I've been working so much this past week, haven't had much chance to catch my breath..."

Anthony gave a sympathetic little frown and rubbed Sören's knee. "It's been so weird, having time off. I barely know what to do with myself."

"Well clearly you've had some idea."

"Some." Their eyes met. "A lot of missing you, wishing you were there to share it with me."

Sören's heart ached. He felt himself get choked up, and didn't want to fall apart and cry when he had to be at the hospital in a bit. "Oh, elskan."

When Sören's coffee was finished he went down the hall and showered - alone, since it would be too tempting to call out of work and spend the evening in bed with Anthony; they'd already spent the day in bed, which was why Sören needed another shower. Sören came out in a towel and Anthony, who was reading in bed, groaned at the sight of him. Sören groaned too, looking at Anthony shirtless, wearing glasses.

"Jesus," Sören laughed.

"Mum called while you were showering," Anthony said.

"Oh, did she?" Sören began putting on his scrubs.

Anthony nodded. "She wanted to know if we were coming for New Year's Eve. I told her no."

"Oh... but why?" Sören pouted. "I like your mum."

"So, Christmas Day was small - just you, myself, my parents. My gran was in Tahiti with her 'companion'." Anthony made air quotes. "Christmas Eve, my parents went to see my father's surviving brother, Grant, and his second wife and his kids and stepchildren. Grant and some of my cousins are coming to New Year's Eve at my parents' house."

"OK?" Sören raised an eyebrow. "Why can't I meet the rest of your family?"

"It's not that you can't," Anthony said. He took a deep breath. "My only male cousin, Alistair - the only male cousin I have, it's all girls on my mum's side too - well... Alistair and I don't get on. At all. Alistair Wyatt-Jones is an Olympic fencer, he won bronze, actually, and he's quite a bit stuck on himself. I prefer to avoid family functions where he's present because it's that toxic. He'll be there at New Year's Eve tomorrow."

"I see." Sören frowned. "I'm sorry that your relationship with your cousin is that bad."

"I am too." Anthony looked down, a touch of sadness in his eyes. "I wanted to be his friend when we were growing up. He rather didn't."

Sören came over and gave Anthony a tight hug. Anthony wrapped his arms around Sören's waist and leaned on him. Sören ruffled Anthony's hair.

"Do your parents know? I mean, why do they keep inviting this guy if they know he makes you uncomfortable and you'll nope out of family functions if he's there?" Sören pulled on the long-sleeve T-shirt he wore under his scrubs, tonight a navy blue.

"That's just it. He's family. It's impolitic not to invite him. And of course, he will show up if he's invited and he doesn't have a prior engagement, like a match." Anthony got up and began to get dressed, since he was driving Sören to work. "I thought I would tell you about my mother's invite, and why I declined - but also that my mother thinks well enough of you to invite you along with me."

"Well, I'm glad." Sören smiled.

"Which leads me to the other reason why I brought up her call - in the same conversation she said that she and Dad would both like us to come to Sunday dinner at least once a month, schedule permitting, if you were OK with that."

"Awwww, that would be nice." Sören felt a bit of relief - he couldn't tell if Anthony's father liked him or not - and he also felt a bit of elation, as if the approval of the parents and wanting them to come around more, as a couple, solidified that this was real, this was serious...

"Good. I was in the habit of going there at least every other weekend before we started dating. Let them feed me." Anthony gave a sheepish smile, since his cooking skills were rather basic. "Mum adores you, and Dad approves of you."

"He does?"

Anthony nodded solemnly. "I know he's hard to figure out - even for someone like myself, who's skilled at reading people - but he does. He said when I was visiting a few days ago, 'You found yourself a good one.'"

Sören hugged him, and Anthony gave him a squeeze and a little kiss before they pulled apart.

Sören took a last glimpse at the gorgeous view of London lit up at night from the panoramic windows in Anthony's flat, before they headed out. When they were in the car, Anthony put on the stereo and asked Sören, "Do you have any preference?"

Sören thought for a minute. "Something to help me keep waking up." He chuckled.

Anthony defaulted to Jamiroquai. Sören began to do a little boogie in his seat, which Anthony smiled at.

"Ugh," Sören said, "this makes me wish I didn't have to go in tonight, even more. Makes me feel like dancing. Mind, I'd probably just... dance around my flat, tidying up. But still."

"You mentioned that you liked going to nightclubs when you were in Reykjavik. That it was therapeutic for you."

Sören nodded with a wistful sigh. "Jæja, dancing helped me get out of my head. I wasn't there just to cruise and find someone to shag - that was a nice bonus. I went there to unleash, to... perform an exorcism, I guess you could call it. It's a very ancient urge, I think, it's why shamans had the status they did in their tribes, they created that rhythm that got people moving, got them out of themselves and to another state of consciousness." Sören looked out the window but he wasn't really looking; he closed his eyes, remembering. "I miss it. I haven't since, well. You know. And you know why. It hasn't been safe."

"What if I went with you?"

Sören looked over at Anthony, who glanced at him before returning his focus to the road.

"You mean the two of us going to a club together?" Sören asked.

Anthony nodded. "I would ensure your safety. There's no pressure, only if you want to, but if you wanted to -"

Sören felt that tight ache in his chest again. "I... I'd like that." He swallowed hard. "You think we could do that for New Year's Eve?"

Anthony smiled. "Absolutely."

"I have no idea what the club scene is like around here -"

"I sort of do. It's not something I've done often, as I'd prefer to bring a date rather than go alone and, well, I've tended to date men not as free-spirited as yourself." He gave Sören's knee a little squeeze. "It's a refreshing change."

Sören's hand rested on Anthony's for a moment. I hope that novelty never wears off. Then he caught himself. Never? That implies there's an always. And, his heart skipping a beat, arms breaking out in gooseflesh under his long sleeves and his duster, despite the warmth of the car, he knew, then. This is the one. I want to grow old with him.

It was a realization that was terrifying and exhilarating all at once.

"Anyway..." Anthony's voice cut into his thoughts. "I assume you'd rather go to a gay club or at least one that's gay-friendly?"

"My experience tends to be pansexual-oriented clubs because, well. I'm bi, not that it really matters now, but back then it did." Sören would miss a woman's touch now and again, but he would miss Anthony more. "But if you're not into that, then a gay club sounds like a safer bet, já, if nothing else we're less likely to be harassed there."

"Yeah." Anthony frowned. "It's unfortunate that in 2011 this is something we still have to worry about."

Sören nodded. "So, yeah, gay club... and, oh shit, I'm going to have to stop home and get suitable clothing."

"Are you going to wear something like what you wore on our first date?"

"Já, that was the plan."

"If you give me the key to your flat, I'll stop there, pack up for you, and that way we can save time, you can just get changed at my place and we can go to wherever we're getting dinner, then to the club."

That was a huge amount of trust, but Sören trusted him. He reached for the keyring in his pocket and handed it over. Anthony took it, meeting Sören's eyes, seeming to understand what a big deal this was, that they'd achieved another next level of deepening trust and understanding.

When they got to National, Sören lingered in the car, as he tended to do. After a few kisses that left them flushed and breathless, aching for more, Sören muttered, "I better go before I get too tempted."

Anthony stopped him before he could open the car door. "One last question."

"Hm?"

"Do you care if we take the Tube? If we're going out to ring in 2012 at a nightclub I'd like to have a few drinks - just a few, not so much I lose agency in public, but enough to unwind properly, and enough where I'd prefer to not have liability hanging over my head with driving."

"Oh, já, that's fine!" Sören nodded. "Maybe I'll do a little drinking myself." That, too, felt liberating - knowing he would be safe enough with Anthony at his side that he could have a couple drinks in public and not worry about waking up in an alley, used and not able to remember what happened.

"All right. That'll also help me plan where we're going."

Sören gave him a last kiss, and then waved on his way out. "Love you."

"I love you, Sören."

Despite Sören's reluctance to go into work that night, and the usual stress of pulling an overnight shift, he was in good spirits, enough that Pamela the pretty redhaired, thirtyish neurologist noticed when Sören had a break in the morning and she was just getting in. "You're as giddy as a kipper," she said with a smirk.

"What?" Sören gigglesnorted into his coffee.

"Sorry, dear, my Yorkshire is showing. You're in an unusually good mood tonight, got a bit of a bounce to you." Pamela cocked her head to one side. "You still seeing that lawyer who sent you flowers?"

Sören nodded with a happy little sigh.

"It looks good on you," Pamela said.

"What does?"

Pamela grinned, flashing a toothpaste smile. "True love."


_


The club in Vauxhall was having a retro night for the new year - "retro" here being songs from the 80s and 90s and early 2000s, which made Anthony lament, "I feel old that this is considered old" as they walked in and "This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan was playing, which came out in 1995 when Anthony was fifteen.

Sören patted him. "You're only as old as you feel."

Anthony snorted. "That doesn't help."

Sören could tell Anthony was definitely out of his element here, though he looked good - Anthony was wearing the Armani tie Sören got him for Christmas with a steel-blue blazer, black vest, black trousers, and black pointy boots - and he smelled good, Sören feeling a frisson of arousal just from the touch of his cologne, a little different than what Anthony usually wore, something more aggressive this time. Sören dragged Anthony to the bar, knowing having a drink right away would take the edge off, and on the way there he marveled once again that he felt safe enough to do this, with Anthony at his side.

Sören had a bottle of beer, and Anthony had a hard cider. They watched the men on the floor, and Sören put a reassuring arm around Anthony's waist. "We can't possibly look more ridiculous than that," Sören said, gesturing to some guys a few feet away who were wearing bright neon suits, rainbow feather boas, and lots of glitter. Anthony laughed and kissed his cheek.

Then Sören recognized the opening notes of an Aaliyah song he hadn't heard in years and loved. He made a squeak and grabbed Anthony, dragging him out onto the floor. "This is my jam," Sören said, as Anthony turned beetroot and laughed, but indulged him.

Anthony's self-consciousness at dancing in public quickly melted away as Sören began to sensually grind up on him, the two of them holding each other and finding a rhythm together, looking into each other's eyes as if it were just them.

Boy, you know you make me float
Boy, you really get me high
I feel like I'm on dope
'Cause you—you serve me on a regular

Boy, we need to tie this rope
Before we drift any deeper
Baby, now pull me close
Boy, let's take this overboard now

I want you to rock the boat
Rock the boat, rock the boat, rock the boat
Work it in the middle,
Work the middle, work the middle, work the middle
Change positions,
New positions, new positions, new positions
Stroke it for me, stroke it for me
Stroke it for me, stroke it for me


When the song was over Sören kissed him hard - turned on by the fluid grace of the way they moved together, and Anthony willing to let go, for him. "See? That wasn't so bad."

"I guess not." Anthony kissed him back.

The Aaliyah song was followed by something much older, "Outstanding" by The Gap Band. Sören and Anthony moved across the floor, continuing to let go, be one with the music and each other.

Girl, you're lookin' sweeter now
You got it every day, girl
Wish that I could love you now
In a special way

You light my fire
I feel alive with you, baby
You blow my mind
I'm satisfied

Outstanding (So outstanding, yeah)
Girl, you knock me out
Excited (I'm so excited, baby)
It makes me wanna shout (Baby)

Gee, I feel so lucky, girl
To have you all alone
I really love the way you love me
Forever I'll be yours

You blow my mind, baby
I'm so alive with you, baby
You blow my mind, baby
You blow my mind, baby, baby

You light my fire {You light my fire}
I feel alive with you, baby {I feel alive}
You blow my mind {You blow my mind}
I'm satisfied {I'm satisfied}

Outstanding


Sören laughed as Anthony twirled him around, dipped him as if they were alone in Sören's kitchen, no one to judge them. They kissed again at the end of the song, and Sören stroked Anthony's cheek, smiling at the light in his eyes, the way he was coming alive. Sören's laughter rang out when he recognized Earth Wind and Fire, and now Anthony took the initiative, leading him.

Yeah, hey
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams will take you very far, yeah
But when you wish upon a dream
Life ain't always what it seems, oh yeah
What'd you see on a night so clear
In the sky so very dear

You're a shining star, no matter who you are
Shining bright to see what you could truly be
What you could truly be


Both Anthony and Sören laughed at the opening notes of "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye. Anthony got behind Sören and their hips rolled together, his arms around Sören's waist, hands sliding over him. Sören tilted his face so they could kiss, shivering as Anthony's fingers "accidentally" brushed a pierced nipple through Sören's shirt.

Ooh baby, I'm hot just like an oven
I need some lovin'
And baby, I can't hold it much longer
It's getting stronger and stronger

And when I get that feeling
I want sexual healing
Sexual healing, oh baby
Makes me feel so fine

Helps to relieve my mind
Sexual healing baby, is good for me
Sexual healing is something that's good for me


"You are so fucking hot," Anthony whispered, before nibbling Sören's neck. Sören moaned, feeling his cock stirring in his leather pants.

The next song did nothing to calm them down, as it was "Pull Up to the Bumper" by Grace Jones. They took turns grinding up on each other from behind, and at last facing each other, bodies close, hands roaming, and Sören could feel Anthony was a little hard as well, felt a frisson at the heat in his eyes.

Driving down those city streets
Waiting to get down
Won't you take your big machine
Somewhere in this town
Now in the parking lot garage
I found the proper place
Just follow all the written rules
You'll fit into the space

Pull up to my bumper baby
In your long black limousine
Pull up to my bumper baby
And drive it in between

Pull up, to it,
Don't drive, through it
Back it, up twice
Now that fits nice


They got hot and heavy enough that Sören decided they needed a break, bringing Anthony back to the bar, where Sören had a second bottle of beer and Anthony had a second hard cider. Anthony shamelessly grabbed his ass while they watched and waited to jump back in, and Sören was tempted to throw him on the bar, climb on, and ravish him. The endorphins had definitely started to kick in, and Sören grinned to himself as he finished his beer.

They took a few more minutes to canoodle, nuzzling and petting; Sören thought about ordering a third beer and then Anthony's face lit up when Jamiroquai came on. Now it was Anthony dragging him on the floor like an excited big kid, with Sören giggling at his exuberance, which was infectious.

You, give me light
So tonight, take me there
I, feel your sun
Start to glow and I know it
Let me show you that
I want your love
I need your touch
For the rest, of our time together,
Baby, come fly with me, eternally
You and me,
We were meant to be

Yeah hey
Alright (right now)
We'll spend the night together
Wake up and live forever
Yeah hey
Alright (right now)
We'll spend the night together
Wake up and live forever


"You're beautiful," Anthony said, stroking Sören's face, his curls. "Your smile lights up this entire place." He leaned in for a kiss. "The entire world."

Sören kissed him back, harder. "I love you."

"God, I love you."

They got emotional enough by the end of the song that when Luther Vandross played next, it seemed absolutely perfect for how they were feeling, everything about what had led them to this point in time.

I can't fool myself, I don't want nobody else to ever love me
You are my shinin' star, my guiding light, my love fantasy
There's not a minute, hour, day or night that I don't love you
You're at the top of my list 'cause I'm always thinkin' of you

I still remember in the days when I was scared to touch you
How I spent my day dreamin' plannin' how to say I love you
You must have known that I had feelings deep enough to swim in
That's when you opened up your heart and you told me to come in

Oh, my love
A thousand kisses from you is never too much
I just don't wanna stop

Oh, my love
A million days in your arms is never too much
I just don't wanna stop

Too much, never too much, never too much, never too much


Their eyes met and they stole another kiss.

Woke up today, looked at your picture just to get me started
I called you up, but you weren't there and I was broken hearted
Hung up the phone, can't be too late, the boss is so demandin'
Opened the door up and to my surprise there you were standin'


Anthony's eyes widened and Sören saw them mist, and knew without him saying it that he was thinking of when Sören lost his phone and went all the way down to Lincoln's Inn straight from his shift at the hospital, tired as he was, just to let him know that he wasn't being ignored - what Anthony feared. Sören grabbed him and kissed him passionately.

Well, who needs to go to work to hustle for another dollar
I'd rather be with you 'cause you make my heart scream and holler
Love is a gamble and I'm so glad that I'm winnin'
We've come a long way and yet this is only the beginnin'


"I think we found our song," Sören rasped.

Oh, my love
A thousand kisses from you is never too much
(Never too much, never too much, never too much)
I just don't wanna stop

Oh, my love
A million days in your arms is never too much
(Never too much, never too much, never too much)
And I just don't wanna stop


"I think so." Anthony pulled Sören into another deep, needy kiss.

They were both choked up now... and hard for each other. They hadn't been at the club terribly long, and Sören felt a little guilty about asking to go back home, but he felt like he was going to end up mauling Anthony in public if they didn't leave soon. But, as a compromise, Sören led Anthony back to the bar. "One more for the road, and if anything else comes on, we'll have one last dance?"

"Sounds good."

They drank through another few songs, Sören only half-watching the men dancing on the floor, looking over at Anthony again and again, blood boiling, wanting him. God, how he wanted.

Their last dance - still holding their bottles of alcohol, not through yet - was to "If You Love Me" by Brownstone, slower and more rhythmic, and also timely, another song that felt perfect with the emotions running high, and Sören thinking to himself this is the one, I want to settle down with him, feeling like they'd suddenly hit a crossroads in their relationship, things had escalated and brought them to another next level, a point of no return.

I don't wanna rain on this parade
But I'm starting to question the love that was made
I'm not looking for just an affair
I want a love that is based on truth, not just dare

You will not hurt my pride
If right now you decide
That you are not ready to settle down
But if you want my heart
Then it's time that you start
To act like you're mine, in the light and the dark

If you love me, say it
If you trust me, do it
If you want me, show it
If you need me, prove it


"I love you," Anthony said, as if he knew what Sören was thinking.

Sören kissed him, breathless.

You see now actions speak louder than words
So don't just say things that I've already heard
Don't want your body without your soul
I don't want a love who will come here and go


"I love you." Anthony kissed him again. "Love you, love you, love you..."

"Let's go," Sören growled, feeling like he was losing his mind with the lust and longing, need rising in him hot and fierce. It would be a wonder if they made it off the Tube without losing control somehow. They danced and kissed their way out to where their outerwear was being kept.

The chill of the night air was welcome after the heat of the club and Sören's own almost-unbearable body heat in his arousal. Sören watched as his breath steamed the air. Anthony finished his bottle of cider, tossing the glass in the recycling bin near the club; Sören was still working on his beer, though he was almost done. Anthony put an arm around him as they marched in the direction of the Tube station, and though they tried to calm down, it wasn't long before they were kissing each other again, laughing, nuzzling and petting, lost in a moment of perfect joy and wonder of the magic they'd captured together.

That was when trouble started. As they approached a bus stop, taking a short pause from kissing and petting, they saw four young white men - none older than thirty, most in their early twenties if Sören had to guess. Two of the four had heads shaved bald, and the other two had very short buzz cuts. They were all smoking cigarettes - Sören could smell them before he saw them, ready to retch. A couple of them were drinking cans of beer. Sören got an uneasy feeling from the four young men that he couldn't quite put his finger on, except that they were all staring as Sören and Anthony came closer, arm in arm. They'd definitely seen Sören and Anthony engaged in public affection a few meters back.

"Faggots," sneered one of the men.

Sören felt like he could spit. Anthony's grip tightened on Sören. "Just keep walking," Anthony muttered. "Eyes straight ahead..."

Then one of them chucked their beer can at them, which hit Anthony and spilled over his greatcoat. One of the bald ones got right in their path, blocking them.

"Going somewhere?" The bald one made a face. "Going off to bugger each other?"

"Clearly, you find the subject of interest," Anthony said without humor. He attempted to steer Sören diagonally so they could walk around the man blocking them. But then the bald man shoved Anthony hard enough that Anthony almost fell backwards. And when Anthony came forward, a look of pure fury on his face, fists clenched, and Sören could tell he was ready to fight back, two of the men rushed towards him.

"Þið huglausir, ógeðfelldir tíkur synir!" Not thinking, only feeling rage, heart pounding, Sören got between Anthony and the two men about to attack him.

Sören grabbed one, headbutted him as hard as he could, and when the man dropped to his knees, Sören punched him in the gut, shoved him to the ground, and kicked him when he was down. "Fjórir á móti tveimur? Lætur það þér líða eins og raunverulegur maður, já?"

The other lunged for him and got in a few punches - the side of Sören's face, Sören's gut - and then Sören looked at the beer bottle still in his hand and it came down over the bald head. "Rassgat! Veðja að þú sért bara öfundsjúkur að vinir þínir muni ekki ríða þér í rassinn!"

With the broken bottle in his hand, and the man's head bleeding from the glass cuts, Sören hollered, finding his English again, "Take one more fucking step towards me and I'll fucking shank you." He was a surgeon, after all, he knew where to stab someone to maim or even kill, though he was hoping it wouldn't have to come to that.

The bald man, of course, paid that no mind, grinning, and before Sören could stab him with the bottle, now Anthony pounced and grabbed the man's nose, hard, and with his free hand he tugged an ear hard enough to make the man cry out before a knee to the groin, dropping the man as the first one had dropped.

He fights dirty, Sören thought to himself, impressed. And he was a little aroused by the sight of Anthony fighting back, as well.

The bald man who had blocked them came back over to Anthony and threw a punch, with Anthony dodging, then he grabbed the man's arm and wrenched it before giving a hard shove, sending the man spinning into the fourth man of the group just before the other man could punch him. Sören rushed to them, watching them ready themselves for more, and before Sören could spring, Anthony said, his tone icy, "Step aside, please."

Sören did as he was told and watched as Anthony produced a tiny spray bottle. He shook it and just before the two men could fall on them and attack again, Sören watched as Anthony sprayed a red marker dye in one face, then the other, with the men having to protect their faces from the spray, reeling from the sting in their eyes, making noises. Then Anthony grabbed Sören and began marching them away as fast as he could, with the men jeering after them, "FUCKING FAGGOTS! FILTHY ARSE-FUCKERS! DIE OF AIDS, YOU FUCKING BUM-LOVERS!"

Sören watched as Anthony put the spray back in his pocket. "That's... that wasn't pepper spray, was it?"

"No, that's illegal here." Anthony then muttered, "Unfortunately." More loudly, he said, "I just used what's called a 'criminal identifier' spray, which is legal. That dye will be on them for a good few days, even if they try to wash it out."

"I take it you've had some experience using it."

Anthony gave a curt nod. "Once in a great while my job gets... interesting." Anthony pointed ahead. "The station isn't far, love."

"You're not going to call the police?"

"No, not this time - that might cause problems for us too. And hopefully they'll have learned from this experience that some of us faggots actually fight back, might make them think twice." Anthony glared in their general direction.

As they waited for the next train, Sören felt the sickening drop in adrenaline. Anthony's arms were around him as he shook, breathing hard; when Sören felt an asthma attack coming on it was Anthony who reached in Sören's pocket for where he knew Sören kept the inhaler, and handed it to him, petting him as Sören puffed. "There," he said softly. "Train is coming soon. We're almost home."

Sören leaned on him and Anthony's arms tightened around him. Anthony held him the entire ride home, rocking Sören in his arms, not caring who saw them, making little soothing noises.

When they got to Anthony's flat, Anthony told Sören, "Undress, I'll get you some ice for those bruises."

The adrenaline surge and the drop had been enough that in the fight and on the train home, Sören hadn't really felt where he'd been punched. But now he did, wincing as he stripped down. Anthony came in the bedroom with two makeshift ice packs and he handed them to Sören as he began to undress. Once Anthony was in pajamas he joined Sören on the bed and held an ice pack to Sören's stomach so Sören could better hold the pack on his face.

"You're going to have quite a rainbow on your face tomorrow," Anthony said, lips quirking. "I hope your colleagues don't think I beat you."

"I'll tell them you only beat me in the fun way."

Anthony's laughter rang out and he stole a little kiss. Then he gave Sören a stern look. "Sören. What you did back there..."

"You had better not be lecturing me about violence, Anthony Wyatt-Jones, since you got some licks in yourself."

"It's not that." Anthony's eyes narrowed. "You..." He took a deep breath. "They were coming at me and you got in the way. You shielded me."

"Don't give me that macho crap about how I shouldn't -"

Anthony silenced him with a kiss. Then Anthony said, his tone softer, "I'm touched that you were willing to put yourself in harm's way for me." He tilted Sören's face to his, stroked the non-injured cheek, his eyes soft and sad. "No one's ever done that for me before."

"You're my partner," Sören said, hoping those words explained everything, finding it odd that someone wouldn't do that for their partner.

Anthony kissed him again, harder. They kissed again and again, with Sören finally giving a moan into the kiss as his cock leapt. Anthony noticed and smirked, his free hand reaching to gently rub the bulge in Sören's boxer-briefs.

"It's funny you think I would lecture you in any way about self-defense," Anthony said, his voice husky. "Especially when you were so hot out there." He claimed Sören's mouth fiercely, and then he began to kiss Sören's neck, making Sören whimper and shiver, cock twinging again. Anthony's hand rubbed him more insistently. "I've got my very own Viking."

"You were pretty hot yourself," Sören rasped. "I didn't know you could fight."

"No, of course not. People don't expect the pretty lawyer boy to be able to hold his own. It can be useful when people underestimate me, just as it can be useful when people fear me." Anthony's eyes flashed. "For the record, I've taken some self-defense courses out of... necessity. Again, my job has been interesting at times."

"I bet." Sören stroked Anthony's face. "I didn't mean to offend you -"

"I know. And you didn't, really."

"If I did, you could just... take it out on me." Sören crinkled his nose and bit his lower lip.

Anthony kissed him roughly with a growl, shoving Sören back against the pillows. The sensuality of the nightclub and the aggression of the fight made a volatile mixture, exploding into passion as Sören found himself rending the fabric of Anthony's pajamas, giving Anthony an evil grin as the silk ripped and dropped to the floor. Anthony bit Sören's neck in response, and then nibbled and licked his way down before he took the waistband of Sören's underwear in his teeth and yanked it down in his teeth, Sören moaning as his hard, aching cock sprang free. When Sören's boxer-briefs were down his thighs, Anthony came up and snatched them off, kissing Sören feverishly as he removed the offending barrier between them.

It was Sören's turn to bite back, biting Anthony's shoulder, making him cry out. Then Sören rolled Anthony onto his back, Anthony giving him a feral look as Sören rose, reaching for the lubricant. Just as Sören was about to push slick fingers into him Anthony grabbed Sören's wrists and shoved Sören onto his side, and the two struggled for dominance, hard cocks rubbing against each other, kissing, biting, grabbing. Sören pinned Anthony on his back and smirked against the little whimper Anthony made into the kiss as Sören's fingers pushed inside him as intended, Anthony fucking himself on Sören's fingers once they found the sweet spot inside him.

A moment later Sören's cock was in him, Sören kissing him hard. Sören showed no mercy, rocking into him hard and fast. Anthony bucked underneath him, biting him, growling, making primal guttural noises, nails scratching Sören's back and ass and the backs of his thighs, the sweet sting of his nails driving Sören wild, fucking him harder. They didn't last long, Anthony shattering within minutes, screaming Sören's name as he shot over Sören's stomach, and Sören bit his neck, making Anthony sob as another load spent out of him. Sören hadn't come yet - close to it, as he felt Anthony contracting around him - and after more hot, fierce kisses Anthony ground out, "Again," and Sören propped a leg up on his shoulder and gave it to him even harder than before, his own voice rising with his lover's. Sören heard himself losing his English again as he rasped, "Taktu það eins og maður, eins og þú ert minn, sýndu mér hversu villtur þú ert."

"Oh god." Anthony's nails dug into Sören's hips. "Oh, shit..." His hips rocked back against Sören's, and Sören gave a deep, animal grunt, pounding into him harder.

"Það er það. Ég mun ríða rassinum þínum eins hart og þú getur tekið."

"Sören." Anthony shuddered. "Sören..." His breath hitched, and Sören could see it in his eyes. Anthony came again with a cry, and now Sören came too as he watched Anthony's cock spurting, felt the hot seed splash over his chest and stomach, felt the sweet clenching around him, saw the look of ecstasy on Anthony's face as he trembled, gasping for breath.

Sören settled down, giving Anthony a few kisses and then laying on his chest, listening to his heartbeat. He slipped out, and Anthony collected some of the still-leaking cum on his fingers and stuck them in Sören's mouth, Sören sucking his fingers as Anthony pet him. Sören felt arousal building again at the act of sucking Anthony's fingers, feeling his touch, and soon enough Anthony was ready to go again, taking his fingers out of Sören's mouth, grabbing Sören's curls, and maneuvering to get behind him. Sören gasped out "yes, yes, yes," as he felt lube poured over him, and gave a cry of "YES" as Anthony pushed into him.

Anthony took him hard, riding Sören's ass, pulling Sören's hair. "Oh god, fuck me," Sören cried, bucking underneath him. When Anthony sank down, his chest against Sören's back, his teeth on Sören's neck and shoulder, Sören screamed, working his hips and ass back at Anthony even harder than Anthony was fucking him, needing it, utterly consumed by savage lust. Anthony tilted Sören's face to his and kissed him hard, and bit Sören's lower lip. "I love you," Anthony growled, and kissed him hard again, overtaking Sören's rhythm, plowing into Sören with mad, fierce abandon.

A minute later, when Anthony kissed the bruises on the side of Sören's face, Sören climaxed, almost ashamed of the inhuman noises coming out of him as he gave in. "Sören," Anthony called out just before he spent into him, and Sören gave a shuddery sigh at the sweetness of feeling Anthony's molten flow deep within him, claiming him.

The euphoria of orgasm combined with all of the earlier emotions of the evening and Sören erupted into hysterical laughter. Anthony laughed too.

"Oh my god," Sören wheezed. "Oh my fucking god, what is with us."

"I don't know, but I like it." Anthony tenderly kissed Sören's bruised cheek.

Eventually they rolled onto their sides - Anthony still behind him - and Anthony reached for the ice pack that had been on Sören's stomach, melting but still reasonably cold. His arms around Sören's waist, he held it there, and Sören dozed off a little. He stirred, giving a whine of protest, when he felt Anthony get out of bed, and then Anthony came in with ice water and ibuprofen for Sören to take, and fresh ice packs. He turned off the light after Sören took the items out of his hands, the nightlight glowing enough for Sören to see what he was doing.

"My hero," Sören quipped as he downed two ibuprofen with the water.

"I feel that way about you, not jokingly." And then Anthony looked at the clock by the bed. "Wow, we got so caught up in... ravaging each other... that we completely missed it being midnight."

"Is it 2012 now?"

"It's 2012 now." Anthony settled in bed beside him. "Happy New Year."

"Gleðilegt nýtt ár, elskan mín."

They kissed, and laughed, and kissed again. Then they got back into a spoon position, with Anthony holding the ice against Sören's stomach with one hand and his face with the other, and sleepiness settled over Sören once more.

In the middle of the night the throbbing of Sören's bruises woke him up. Anthony was still spooning him, but had fallen asleep at some point and the ice packs were no longer in his hands. Needing to feel him as much as he could, Sören reached out to put his hands on Anthony's arms and they slid down to Anthony's hands. Anthony's breath hitched and he mumbled incoherently, then, "Sören?"

"Jæja, didn't mean to wake you, sorry."

Anthony's arms tightened around him. "S'OK." Anthony squeezed. "You're so warm and cozy."

"Mmmmm, I like feeling you snuggled close to me."

Anthony cleared his throat, and he reached to tap Sören's shoulder, which made Sören giggle, and then Anthony's hand settled back over him and he said, sounding slightly more awake now, "As you were falling asleep I was thinking."

"About?"

"I want you to move in with me."

Sören was not expecting that. "Oh."

"I... know it's soon, but -"

"No, Anthony, it's OK. I... I want to." Sören's heart soared, remembering the feelings he'd had earlier that evening - this is the one, I want to settle down with him. Living together was a step in that direction.

"Oh, good." Anthony gave a little sigh of relief. "It would be more convenient and practical, less travel time with having to go to and from your flat, and... well..." Anthony squeezed him again. "I need you with me."

"You've got me, elskan." Sören heard the huskiness in his own voice, and the tears came, silently. Yes. Yes, this is what I want, this is who I want, this is the life I want, yes...

Anthony tilted Sören's face to his and kissed him. What was supposed to be a sweet little kiss between two sleepy lovers in the middle of the night quickly heated and Sören moaned as he felt Anthony go hard against him.

"Make love to me," Sören whispered. "Just like this."

Anthony slipped into him, the passage eased by Sören being open and slick from earlier. He went much more slowly and gently than before, and it was just right, with Sören as sensitized as he is. Sören moaned, and Anthony did too, before he kissed Sören's neck and shoulder.

"We can work out details tomorrow," Anthony whispered. "Though I'd like to have you moved in by next weekend -"

"We'll work all that out." Sören patted him. "Right now is not lawyer time. It's lover time."

Anthony laughed. "Sorry." He tilted Sören's face and kissed his mouth, the two groaning as their tongues teased and played. Anthony's hand strayed lower, to stroke Sören's hard cock. Then the other hand brushed a nipple, pebbled in the night air, making Sören gasp.

It wasn't long before Anthony was moving inside him faster, tormenting Sören with kisses over his sensitive neck, rubbing his aching nipples, the pleasure around Sören's cock and inside him mounting. When Sören felt himself right there, he warned, "Anthony, don't stop, I'm gonna -"

"Yes, darling. Come with me."

They came together, kissing, moaning and crying out into the kiss. Anthony's fingers moved up from where he was teasing Sören's nipples to stroke his face, and the hand that had been on Sören's cock was on his heart, now, such tenderness that it brought tears to Sören's eyes.

Anthony squeezed him and whispered, "Welcome home."

Chapter Text

Sören's landlord was good enough to prorate rent since Sören would only be in his flat in Bromley a few days into January; on the evening of Friday the sixth Anthony drove Sören and his belongings from Bromley to Kingston upon Thames, making a stop at Sören's landlord's office for Sören to turn in the key. Anthony immediately filled the place on Sören's keyring with a key to his own flat. Sören didn't have much to bring over, since he'd left Iceland only with what he could fit into suitcases on a plane and hadn't acquired much more in the way of personal possessions since then - mostly bedding and the print of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" hanging on his wall; Sören's studio flat in Bromley was pre-furnished. Sören had packed everything the night before, and almost hadn't gotten to sleep in his excitement about taking this big step forward with the man he loved.

As they drove from Bromley to Kingston upon Thames, Sören detected a lingering scent of roses in Anthony's car and he wondered if Anthony had gotten a new car freshener, but he was too tired to ask about it, having had an exhausted fourteen-hour shift. He just snuggled into the microfleece blanket Anthony had started keeping in the car to make him feel cozy and give him a chance to rest on drives, listening to jazz playing softly on the car stereo.

Anthony insisted on bringing in Sören's belongings himself, giving Sören an extra few minutes to rest, and at last he came back for Sören, turning off his car. Sören giggled as Anthony picked him up and carried him a few paces through the front door, and then he gasped when he saw what waited for him inside. "Oh, my god."

"I took a detour home from work," Anthony explained.

"I guess so."

The open plan kitchen and living room was filled with a dozen bouquets of a dozen roses. Sören squeaked with happiness, tears brimming his eyes at Anthony wanting to welcome him home in such a beautiful, romantic way. When Anthony put him down on the floor Sören threw his arms around him and spun him around and around, sobbing, screaming. Anthony laughed and rained kisses over Sören's face, then gave him one deep, hungry kiss with a look in his eye that let Sören know he meant business.

Then Anthony said, "Wait here."

Sören obediently stood in the living room, tapping his foot, as Anthony went down the hall. He was gone for a few minutes, which made Sören suspicious. Then Anthony came back, wearing just a bathrobe, and after he instructed Sören to take off his leather duster and hang it up, he began to undress Sören right there in the living room, as Sören giggled and said, "Anthony, what are you up to..."

"Who says I'm up to anything?" Anthony gave him an innocent face.

"You're terrible at bullshitting me, you know that."

Anthony winked, and when Sören was stripped down to his boxer-briefs, Anthony collected the clothes from the floor and brought them down to the laundry basket in the hall, then he grabbed Sören's hand and led him down the hallway. Sören gasped as he saw rose petals scattered on the hall floor, and again when he stepped into the bedroom - their bedroom, now - and the bed was freshly decked out with silk sheets, rose petals scattered from the floor to the bed, over the sheets. There were six more bouquets of roses in the bedroom. Votive candles and tealights were lit around the room, champagne was chilling in a bucket near two flutes, and there was an assortment of finger foods also being kept cold near the champagne, including fresh fruit - berries and pieces of citrus and tropical fruit. Sören noticed vanilla-flavored massage oil near the usual bottle of lube, and sexy music was playing softly in the background; Sören smiled as "Sexual Healing" by Marvin Gaye came on.

"I wanted both to welcome you home properly and take care of you after a long week," Anthony said, walking Sören over to the bed.

"Jæja, you've had a long week too."

Anthony kissed Sören and gently nudged him along onto the bed. "It is my pleasure to do nice things for you, my love. Really."

Sören and Anthony started by feeding each other, eating from each other's hands and fingers, kissing and nuzzling between bites of food. When they got to the fruit, Sören licked and sucked the juices from Anthony's fingers and palm, and when there was a little bit of fruit left Sören shoved Anthony down on his back, arranged the fruit over his chest and stomach, and ate it off his body, licking the juices off him, making Anthony laugh and moan and shiver, petting Sören's curls as he feasted. Before Sören could take Anthony's cock into his mouth, Anthony pushed him away gently, chuckling, and poured them each champagne.

"To the first chapter of our life together," Anthony said softly.

"To coming home," Sören husked. "This is where I belong. With you."

They clinked glasses, drank champagne, and kissed. When their glasses were drained, Anthony had Sören lay on his stomach, and he rubbed and kneaded the tension and knots out of Sören's neck and shoulders and arms and back and ass and thighs, his hard cock sliding in the crack of Sören's ass, making Sören ache for him even as he melted away, feeling like his body and mind were going elsewhere underneath the tender touch. And as Sören lay on his back and Anthony's hands worked over his shoulders and arms and chest and stomach and hips and thighs and knees and calves, body singing with pleasure and need, the look of love in Anthony's eyes took Sören's breath away, made him reach up to stroke Anthony's face, ruffle his hair, and at last, pull him down into a passionate kiss.

"Here," Sören said. "I want to take care of you, too." At Anthony's protest of "this is for you," Sören wagged a finger and scolded, "Don't lawyer me right now, Anthony Wyatt-Jones. I insist."

Anthony pressed the back of his hand to his forehead and rolled his eyes with an exaggerated sigh. "If you must." His eyes gleamed, and the little smirk he gave let Sören know he didn't mind.

"I must. Here." Sören patted the space next to him.

Anthony lay on his stomach and Sören poured oil over his back and got to work. Sören was already aroused from receiving a massage, and giving one just turned him on even more. "You have a really nice back," Sören said.

Anthony laughed into the pillows. "That's a very strange compliment, but I'll take it."

"Oh, I mean... all of you is nice." Sören's hands slid down to cup and rub the curve of Anthony's firm, taut ass, before sliding back up to Anthony's back. "Like that arse of yours is lovely. But wow, you've got a nice back. These are things I notice, I guess, performing spinal surgery and drawing people."

It felt like in the just-over-a-month they'd been together that Sören had explored Anthony's body dozens of times already, but it felt new tonight, with Sören paying closer attention than usual, as if committing every small detail to memory. When Anthony lay on his back, moaning softly as Sören's hands caressed and rubbed and soothed and teased everywhere they could touch, Sören's eyes fixated on a scar on Anthony's left thigh that he'd seen before, but this was the first time he'd really noticed it. It was faded, suggesting an old scar, and it was clean and precise, which told Sören it wasn't from a stabbing - Sören would otherwise have to wonder, with the risks in Anthony's line of work - but was either from a surgeon's scalpel or a self-injury wound, and Anthony didn't have other scarring that indicated the latter. Sören's finger lovingly ran over the scar, and he thought about asking about it, but he didn't want to pry, and the way Anthony was breathing raggedly and moaning, his eyes glazed over, told Sören he wasn't really in a position to handle serious questions beyond "how do you want it?", anyway. So Sören put that thought on file, before he dove down to take a few loving licks at Anthony's hard cock, now leaking a generous amount of precum.

"Oh god, Sören."

Sören smiled and lapped more insistently, tongue teasing the slit before his lips wrapped around the head, tongue swirling as he sucked, kissing the head of Anthony's cock, making Anthony groan. When Sören swallowed his cock down deeper, Anthony's breath hitched, and Sören moaned around the cock in his mouth, his own cock throbbing, when Anthony reached to grab a fistful of Sören's curls, arching to him.

After a few minutes Sören was sucking at him with hungry abandon, cupping and rubbing the tightening balls with one hand, stroking himself with another, lost in lust at the sound of Anthony's moans and the look on his face as Sören pleasured him. And then Anthony grabbed Sören's hair harder than before, pulling Sören off his cock.

"I said I wanted to take care of you, did I not?" Anthony's eyes locked with his.

"Jæja... and I'm enjoying myself." Sören grinned and, not able to help himself, took a teasing lick at the head of Anthony's cock, chasing more precum with his tongue, his cock and hole both twinging at the way Anthony moaned at that.

"Sören... you always put everyone ahead of yourself." Anthony sat up. "Lay down, and let me love you."

Sören laughed softly. He stopped laughing at the deadly serious look on Anthony's face - a look that sent heat surging through Sören's body, cock and hole throbbing again, wanting. He did as he was told, but the sight of Anthony's cock as Anthony repositioned himself was too tempting and Sören gave it a few more strokes.

Anthony got off the bed, and Sören watched as Anthony went into the bedroom closet and pulled out a charcoal grey cashmere scarf. "You don't listen too well," Anthony said, coming over with the scarf.

Now Sören's cock really throbbed, jolting as Anthony came closer. Anthony's lips curved at the sight of Sören responding, knowing what the scarf meant. Sören heard himself make a desperate little whimper, and Anthony laughed as he got back on the bed. He stroked Sören's face and cupped Sören's chin with his hand; Sören sucked his thumb. "That's right," Anthony said. "Now you're going to lie back and let me take care of you."

With that, Anthony grabbed one of Sören's arms, and wrapped Sören's hand around a slat in the headboard. Anthony tied Sören's wrist, smiling as Sören moaned. Sören moaned again as Anthony tied his other wrist. "Try the bonds," Anthony said. Sören attempted to move his arms and it was determined the binds were neither too tight nor too loose.

"Now then..." Anthony leaned in and kissed Sören passionately, both men moaning into the kiss.

Sören was almost embarrassed by the noises he made as Anthony made good on his promise to take care of him. Anthony kissed and licked Sören's neck and throat and shoulders, then spent a long time teasing Sören's pierced nipples, making Sören howl and writhe against the restraints, panting, begging "oh god, please" as Anthony's lips, tongue and teeth feasted, pebbling Sören's nipples, teasing them into aching, swollen peaks, every lash of tongue and nibble of teeth and brush of thumb making Sören's cock twitch, almost painfully hard in its need. Eventually Anthony moved on to kissing and licking the rest of Sören's chest, his stomach, down one hip and thigh and behind one knee, then back up and across Sören's stomach to the other.

"You're beautiful," Anthony whispered, hovering over Sören's cock, and then he began to lick. And lick, and lick, tongue-bathing Sören's cock, teasing and teasing, tormenting so sweetly that Sören almost cried.

But that was nothing compared to what came next. When he'd been worshiping Sören's cock with his tongue for a few minutes - moments that felt like an eternity - Sören let out a strangled sob, and Anthony laughed at him, delighted by his reaction, and spread Sören's legs. Sören screamed as Anthony's tongue danced on the sweet spot between his balls and ass, and then Anthony's tongue was inside him and it was so good it almost hurt. Anthony's tongue was like a hurricane, and then so gentle, feather-light. He licked fast then slow, fast then slow, Sören's broken cries rising louder and louder, bucking, trembling, pleasure and tension building so deep and so high it felt like he could explode and implode at the same time from the immensity of sensation. Nothing had ever felt this good, and nothing had ever been so hot as the way Anthony enjoyed him, eating him like he were the most delicious dessert, savoring him. Every time Sören thought he was going to climax from that tongue working its evil magic, then Anthony changed rhythm and took it even higher, even deeper, dangling Sören on that edge, seeing how far Sören could go, how thoroughly he could be wrecked. Being bound - being made to surrender, made to let go - just added to why it was so all-consuming.

And at last Sören felt himself hurtling towards that point of no return. Sören hadn't been able to make words for some time now, only wild, feral noises, but now he found his words again, just not in English. "Anthony... elskan, ekki hætta!"

Anthony didn't speak Icelandic, but he seemed to get the gist of what was being said, responding with "mmmmmmm" as he licked more insistently.

"Ó guð. Ó guð, meira, ekki hætta, meira, ekki hætta, ekki hætta, ekki hætta..."

"Mmmmhmmmm. Mmmmmmmmm...."

"Ég er svo nálægt, svo nálægt, svo fokking nálægt..."

"Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Mhmmm. Mmmmmm..."

Sören quivered, feeling himself bearing down, his orgasm about to spring. The last of the storm of passion was gathering in him. A few shuddering gasps, frantic panting, and then Sören cried out, "Anthony! Ég ætla að koma, ég ætla að koma, ekki hætta, láta mig koma!"

The final few seconds of the exquisite rubbing inside him and Sören came hard, screaming wordlessly as his body shook and heaved, toes curling, making a mess all over himself as he shot again and again. Anthony came up to clean the mess with his tongue, and Anthony's tongue on Sören's sensitized cock made his orgasm even more intense, Sören wailing as he shot again, this time making a mess over Anthony's neck and throat. Anthony laughed, seemingly delighted, and he came up to kiss Sören hard, Sören moaning at the taste of himself. Anthony grabbed Sören's curls and directed him to clean up the mess, and as Sören licked at Anthony's neck and throat, Anthony made a primal noise that made Sören hungry again, not wanting to be done just yet.

And they were far from done. With Sören still bound, Anthony got the lube. He kissed Sören roughly, grinding against his thigh as he worked two slick fingers into him, then three, Sören whimpering into the kiss at the rubbing on his sensitive prostate. When Anthony knew Sören was ready, he began to push inside. Sören loved that feeling of being taken while bound, giving a deep sigh of contentment when they were fully joined.

Anthony moved inside him slowly, sensually, teasing them both. He played with Sören's cock and the other hand rubbed and pinched and plucked Sören's nipples, tugged on the rings, knowing by now what Sören liked. When Anthony kissed and nibbled Sören's neck, hands working more insistently, Sören almost came again, overcome by lust and sensation.

And then their song came on, and tears came to Sören's eyes, feeling so much love, everything aligning so perfectly.

I can't fool myself, I don't want nobody else to ever love me
You are my shinin' star, my guiding light, my love fantasy
There's not a minute, hour, day or night that I don't love you
You're at the top of my list 'cause I'm always thinkin' of you

I still remember in the days when I was scared to touch you
How I spent my day dreamin' plannin' how to say I love you
You must have known that I had feelings deep enough to swim in
That's when you opened up your heart and you told me to come in

Oh, my love
A thousand kisses from you is never too much
I just don't wanna stop

Oh, my love
A million days in your arms is never too much
I just don't wanna stop

Too much, never too much, never too much, never too much


"Fuck me," Sören breathed. "Take me."

Anthony claimed his mouth again and then claimed the rest of him, moving harder, faster. Sören rocked his hips, matching Anthony's rhythm. And when Anthony rose, one of Sören's legs on his shoulder, Sören bucked even harder, overtaking his rhythm, for Anthony to outmatch Sören, once again in charge. Sören lost himself in the delicious rubbing inside him, the hungry lust on Anthony's face, the noises they made as they gave in to that most ancient, primal need, the need to rut, the need to mate, and yet somehow even at its most profane it was sacred, Sören feeling as free and alive as he'd ever felt, trusting someone so deeply to take him where nobody else ever had, into realms of pleasure and passion he never thought possible.

Sören's second orgasm was as good as the first if not better, and the feeling of Anthony coming inside him - hearing him as he shattered - was so incredibly rewarding, making him feel as warm and glowy as the candles burning around him. Anthony untied Sören's wrists and Sören flexed his wrists and wrapped his arms around his beloved, snuggling close to him. "You were magnificent," Anthony husked.

"You were fucking amazing." Sören kissed him hard.

They cuddled, needing to recharge. They had a second glass of champagne, and when Sören spilled a little on himself, Anthony cleaned it with his tongue. That led to Sören "accidentally" spilling some on Anthony to lick off of him, and soon enough they were both hard again, rubbing against each other, kissing fiercely.

Anthony lay on his back and pulled Sören on top of him. "Your turn," he said, and handed the lube to Sören, grinning.

Sören's fingers played inside him as they kissed, and at last Sören took him. For all that Sören wanted to return the same loving care, keeping the pace slow, he was too worked up and found himself slamming into him, feverish - which was just what Anthony wanted. He wrapped his legs and arms around Sören, nails scratching Sören's back, kissing Sören hard, biting Sören's neck and shoulder between kisses. "Yes, yes, yes..." Anthony gave a little growl as he bit Sören again.

Sören loved it, thrusting into him even harder. "Taktu það. Taktu það, þú fokking hani druslan." Sören kissed him again and again, moaning as their tongues licked together between kisses, letting out a cry when Anthony nibbled his neck. "Ástin mín. Ég get ekki fokking fengið nóg af þér, yndislega ríða druslan mín.

"Sören." Anthony shivered and Sören gave him a wolfish grin, knowing Icelandic was his weakness. "Oh god, Sören..."

"Elska þig. Elska þig svo mikið, ég ætla að gera þér fokking koma svo mikið fyrir mig."

"Sören. Sören." Anthony's nails raked his back again, and Anthony gave a deep, fierce grunt, trembling, bucking underneath him harder, breath ragged.

The sweet sting of Anthony's nails urged Sören on faster, pounding him into the mattress. Anthony cried out, nails scratching Sören again, who growled and now it was Sören's turn to bite him. Anthony took Sören's face in his hands and kissed him hard, breathless, both men crying out into the kiss, and then Anthony reached and put Sören's hand on his cock, grabbed Sören's hair with the other hand, giving Sören a look that let Sören know who was still in charge. Sören growled and Anthony growled back, kissing Sören harder, fucking himself furiously on Sören's cock even as Sören stroked him in time with their hips.

"Don't stop," Anthony commanded.

Sören growled again, kissing him.

"Sören." Anthony gave a shuddery gasp. "Oh god, Sören."

"Yes." Sören could see it in his eyes, could hear it in that gasp, the catch of Anthony's breath, the little quiver against him. "Fuck, yes. That's it."

"Oh god, Sören." Anthony's eyes glazed over. His nails were in Sören's back again. "Sören. Sören..."

Anita Baker's voice was so apt for this moment, Sören smiling as he watched it unfold.

I'm in love, sweet love
Hear me calling out your name, I feel no shame
I'm in love, sweet love
Don't you ever go away, it'll always be this way


"Oh. My. God. Sören. Sören." A last shudder, a sharp exhale and a cry, before the final "Sören!"

As soon as Anthony began contracting around him, shooting over their stomachs and chests, Sören's own climax overtook him, emptying into his lover with a deep, satisfied grunt that felt like it was coming from the molten center of the Earth itself, erupting with the scorching heat of his release. They took each other's hands and kissed, trembling together, the pulse of Anthony around him and the pulse of Sören within his lover seeming to go on forever, endless, the push and pull its own force of nature.

They clung to each other, not able to make words, and indeed, no words were needed. Sören managed to give Anthony a smile before he plummeted into sleep.

At some point, Anthony had gotten up and the stereo was off, the candles were out; Sören felt Anthony get back in bed and take him back into his arms.

"I love you," Sören mumbled.

"I love you." Anthony kissed the top of Sören's head, gave him a tight squeeze. "I'm so glad you're here with me."

Even though he was only partly awake, Sören went there. "Hi Glad You're Here With Me."

Anthony swatted Sören's ass.


_


The next few days passed by in a dreamlike haze. Anthony drove Sören to work on Saturday and Sunday, and on Saturday night they went out to a restaurant late, and on Sunday they got takeaway; Sören began to unpack his belongings and put them away, with Anthony giving Sören half the bedroom closet for his clothes.

On Monday, Anthony had to go to work before Sören did, which meant Sören would be taking the Tube there, but when Anthony's alarm went off, Sören stirred awake and Anthony stole a sleepy kiss, Sören grinning at him before he dozed off again. When Sören's alarm went off, he let out a whine at the emptiness in the bed, and after yawning and rubbing his eyes for a moment he found a handwritten note at the bedside:

and Sören found a handwritten note, elegant cursive, at the bedside:

I love that your beautiful brown eyes are the last thing I see before I fall asleep at night and the first thing I see when I wake up. Thinking of you will help me get through court today.

Sören gave a happy little sigh, holding the note to his heart. He felt a bit self-conscious about it - it was an inanimate object - but it was something his lover had given him, a piece of his heart.

One of the items Sören had brought from the flat in Bromley was a hollowed-out book that Sören had gotten specifically to keep dried petals in from the first bouquet of roses Anthony had given him, which were sitting in a gauzy satchet bag. Now some of the petals of the eighteen bouquets Anthony had gotten to welcome Sören home were being dried, to eventually add to their own bag to place inside the box. The card from the first bouquet was there, and Sören tucked the note inside as well. He kissed the lid of the book-box after the note was safe inside.

Sören knew Anthony wasn't going to feel like dealing with people after a day in court, even if he won, so when he was on his break he texted Anthony about dinner, offering to cook. Anthony felt guilty about Sören cooking when he'd been on his feet all day, and Sören compromised by saying he'd make something simple.

They still had to go grocery shopping when Sören got off work, which Sören had always hated doing when he lived alone, but somehow, doing this with Anthony felt comforting - he realized it was an act of nesting, being domestic together. Anthony seemed to pick up on that as well, his arms around Sören as Sören pushed the cart around, adding this or that.

When they got to the flat and Sören got out of the car, before he went to the trunk to help Anthony unload groceries, he took a few minutes to breathe the crisp night air, the cold air feeling invigorating, a second wind that he needed after the long day. Anthony also seemed to intuitively understand Sören needed a few moments to breathe and just be, and he came over and put an arm around Sören. The view of the Thames lit up at night even from here on the ground was gorgeous, making Sören feel wistful, even moreso when Sören looked up and there was a shooting star. Anthony took Sören's hand and Sören heard himself sigh, remembering that the last time he'd seen a shooting star was when he lived in Iceland...

...under the northern lights, fire in the sky. As much as Sören felt bitter about what happened in Reykjavik, no longer thinking of Iceland as his home, he couldn't help but ache because prior to the rape, Iceland had been his home. He was a part of the land, and the land was a part of him, and it was still in him bone-deep, soul-deep, there was still that longing for the shape of the land that had shaped him...

"Sören." Anthony stroked Sören's face, looking concerned. "What is it, love?"

"Oh." Sören gave a nervous laugh, ran his hand through his curls, rubbed his beard, stared down at his Doc Martens. "Nothing."

"Bullshit." Anthony glared as he popped the trunk and went over to take a bag of groceries. "It's something. Sören, don't 'nothing' me when I ask you what is it, you can't lie to me..."

"OK, fine." Sören huffed as he grabbed a bag of groceries. Anthony closed the trunk firmly but didn't slam it, which let Sören know he wasn't quite angry, just a little irritated, but Anthony's glare quickly gave way to concern again, softness. "I just... got a little homesick, is all." Sören quickly added as they walked to the door, "I mean, this is home now, but..."

"No, Sören, I get it. Well..." Anthony gave a sad little smile. "Not that I get it, as I've lived my entire life in London apart from when I went abroad years ago, but... it's perfectly normal for you to miss where you're from."

They went inside. Sören grasped at levity, his default coping mechanism. "Oh, you mean I did a normal people thing for once?"

"Yes, just this once." Anthony grinned, and Sören laughed; Anthony laughed with him. Then Anthony was all concern again. "Are you quite sure you don't want to visit Iceland...?"

Sören nodded vehemently. "I... I don't feel safe. I mean, yes you'd be with me, and I feel safe with you, but it's just..." Sören sighed deeply. "Too soon, too raw, too much..."

"Oh, sweetheart." Anthony stopped unloading groceries and came over to give Sören a fierce, tight hug. "I'm so sorry."

"I know." Sören patted him. Sören felt a lump in his throat, and he didn't want to fall apart now. He got right to work, assembling the ingredients for the omelette, and "scrubbed in", then proceeded to chop the vegetables. Chopping fast and furious, as if he were stabbing whoever it was who cut him away from the world he'd known.


_


On Tuesday night Sören had to work an overnight shift; early Wednesday morning, Anthony texted Sören a little while before his scheduled break to let Sören know he was coming to the hospital for Sören's break. Sören was touched, since he knew Anthony was getting up earlier than usual for this.

The cafe was just starting to open, and it was just Anthony there, with a cup of coffee for each of them. Anthony was already dressed for work - he'd be going straight to Lincoln's Inn after he left the hospital; his greatcoat was draped over a chair and Sören grinned at the sight of him, impeccably handsome in a charcoal grey suit with waistcoat, and the navy tie Sören had gotten him for Christmas. Anthony rose when he saw Sören approaching, smiling back at him as he held out his arms. "Brown Eyes."

Sören giggled and ran to him, breathing a little sigh as Anthony pulled him close and held him tight for a moment, rocking him. Sören still felt that tiny flutter in his stomach with him, and Anthony's presence gave him the rush he needed to make it through the second half of his shift even before the caffeine.

They sat down. "It's sweet of you to meet me here," Sören said.

"I missed you." Anthony gave a sad little smile. "I didn't sleep well without you there, besides."

"Awwwwwww..." Sören reached across the table and squeezed his hand. Then he accepted the coffee and took a few seconds to breathe in the coffee aroma, before he drank. "Oh, that's nice. I needed this, elskan."

"I thought you might. How are things going?"

Sören shrugged. "Going, pretty much. Got a couple sleep studies to monitor, we had an emergency trauma patient... the usual. After your work day starts, I have a couple scans lined up, and a spine surgery before I go home."

"Is it appropriate to say 'good luck' with surgery? Is 'break a leg' better?" A wry grin. "'Break a spinal cord'?"

Sören gigglesnorted and kicked Anthony under the table. "I'm not superstitious at all, and I don't believe in luck but I'll accept the well wishes anyway."

"You should take a nap when you get home. Want me to bring home anything in particular?"

"Whatever you feel like, but Indian or Thai is always nice."

"All right."

They sat in companionable silence for a few moments, drinking coffee, playing footsie under the table, and then over the intercom someone paged, "Doctor Khan. Doctor Khan."

Without thinking about it, Sören quipped, "Doctor Khan let me rock you, let me rock you, Doctor Khan, let me rock you, that's all I wanna do..."

Anthony almost spat his coffee. "God, Sören. Now Chaka Khan is going to be in my head all morning."

"There are far worse earworms to have."

"There are, and you had better not." Anthony reached across the table and tweaked Sören's nose; Sören gave him an innocent face that wasn't innocent at all.

"I will be so bloody grateful to have this weekend off," Sören said, frowning into his coffee. "Friday can't get here fast enough." Having the Chaka Khan earworm himself, Sören remembered the fun they had New Year's Eve with a little wistful sigh. "Hm, maybe we could go to a club on Saturday? I liked that... well, apart from the gay bashing on the way home."

"I did too. But actually, that's part of why I came here, I have news for you." Anthony's eyes twinkled and Sören knew he was up to something, and was impressed he'd managed to conceal that this far into the visit.

"Oh, do you now."

"This weekend, we are going to Stockholm."

Sören's eyebrows shot up. He put down his coffee. It took a few seconds for it to register and then he squeaked, got up, came right over and hugged Anthony, making happy noises as Anthony squeezed him and laughed.

Sören sat back down, closer to him. "Stockholm? Really?"

Anthony nodded. "I know you were homesick Monday night, I know you miss the northern lights. I can't guarantee that the aurora will make an appearance while we're there, but we have a better shot of seeing it there than we do staying put here, and... it's the closest I can come to giving you a little taste of home without it being Iceland."

Sören couldn't recall specifically mentioning that his longing when he looked up at the shooting star was for the aurora, even though he'd certainly been feeling that, and he got a funny little prickle at the back of his neck, gooseflesh over his arms under his long sleeves. But he was as touched even more than he was unsettled that Anthony somehow knew, and Sören took Anthony's hands and kissed them, before throwing his arms back around him again, making more happy noises. "You're the best, elskan. Thank you so much. I love you..."

"I love you. We'll be flying in Friday night and coming back Sunday evening, which isn't a huge amount of time but it's something?"

"It's definitely something." Sören leaned in to give him a kiss. "You're definitely something."


_


As they got ready to go to the airport on the evening of Friday the thirteenth, double-checking that they had everything, Sören said, "I can't believe this is happening. In a good way." He came over and gave Anthony a hug. "I love you so much, this is amazing."

Anthony laughed and tousled Sören's curls, kissed his brow and the tip of his nose. "I hope you enjoy it there. Truthfully, this trip is for me as much as it is for you. When I took time off from school to see the world for a bit, I toured western Europe, and I spent a longer amount of time in Stockholm than I did anywhere else."

"Really?" Sören raised an eyebrow. "What prompted that? It's pretty there, and lots to do, já?"

"Well, yes, but it was a bit personal for me as well." Anthony's cheeks turned pink, and he looked a little wistful.

Sören had a feeling he knew what that meant. "Oh, boyfriend?"

"That implies it was serious and, well, no. It was a fling, but not a relationship." Anthony looked out the panoramic window at the Thames and the city of London lit up at night, and Sören knew he wasn't looking at the riverfront so much as he was looking into his own memories. "He was older. Like... old enough to be my father, older. I was in my very early twenties, and he was in his fifties. Swedish, tall, grey haired, bearded. Great shape for his age."

"Nice." Sören licked his lips without thinking about it. "I've always had a thing for silver daddy types. Haven't gotten to fuck many of them, but..."

Anthony nodded. "Mikael was definitely that type. We had fun - enough that I stayed in Stockholm a bit longer than anticipated. I honestly would have moved there if he'd asked me to, back then, I was fairly smitten with him, but he was the one who told me I shouldn't tie myself down at that age, he should just be a fond memory. And... I have no regrets." He turned back to Sören, his face a deeper pink now.

"That's very sweet," Sören said, and then he added, "and very hot." The thought of Anthony having sex with an older "daddy" type did things to him. The thought of turning it into a threesome... Oh, fuck. Sören shivered, his cock twinging. "Do you still keep in touch with him?"

"No, he didn't want me to be attached, for which I can't blame him. He had a life and I needed to find my own."

Sören wondered if he should suggest possibly he and Anthony going cruising on Saturday night to find a "silver daddy" to have a threesome with - if maybe with their respective hours, Anthony might be better served having a second partner to get his rocks off with once in awhile...

...but then before he could bring it up, Anthony went on, "Even if we were, though... I'm with you. And when I'm with someone, I'm with someone. You're the one I want." Anthony took Sören's hand and kissed it.

Well, so much for that idea. But Sören could live with it. A hot "silver daddy" type for them to play with was a nice "possibly to have" fantasy, but not mandatory. Besides, if we were going to go there, I'd rather it be a Frenchman, not a Swede. Sören had a weakness for the French. The thought of a silver-haired-and-bearded Frenchman in bed with them... fantasy though that would remain, it was still a delicious one. We better get out of here before I drag Anthony to bed and we miss our flight.

When they arrived in Stockholm, they went straight to their hotel, taking a cab. Sören was even more impressed by Anthony's command of Swedish than he was with Anthony's fluency in French, as Swedish was a bit closer to home for him linguistically, and he smiled at the not-quite-familiarity of hearing another Scandinavian language.

Anthony had spared no expense, getting them into a five-star hotel that had a jacuzzi in the room and they even had a key to a private sauna, with the sauna rooms out in back. "We can do the sauna tomorrow?" Anthony asked on the way to their room.

"That sounds good," Sören said, and then with a nervous chuckle as they got in the elevator, he added, "I've never been in a sauna before."

"Really."

"We have hot springs in Iceland... I have plenty of experience with those. Saunas, not so much, that's more of a Swedish, Norwegian thing. But I'm looking forward to it!" Then Sören gave a sigh, feeling guilty about his reluctance to go back to Iceland. "I'm sorry. You'd like Iceland, probably, and I wish I wasn't so fucking... broken... so we could go..."

Anthony pulled him close and pet him. "You have nothing to be sorry for, my love. You didn't ask for what happened, and... there are plenty of other places we can go, plenty of things to see in the world." Their eyes met. "I'd like to share where I've been, with you. Pieces of my life. It makes me feel closer to you, letting you in on something that was very private to me."

"Awwwwww." Sören leaned on him, and then, overcome by emotion and not wanting to cry in the elevator, he found himself defaulting to humor to cope. He broke out in song. "I can show you the world..."

"Oh no."

"Shining, shimmering, splendid... tell me princess now when did you last let your heart decide?"

"Sören, they'll deport us."

They laughed all the way to their hotel room. Sören stopped laughing when they got in and he saw the view of Stockholm, letting out a low whistle. Anthony came over and put an arm around Sören's waist, and kissed him.

Tired as they were from the long day they both had, they weren't quite ready for bed, and decided to unwind by getting in the hot tub, where they snuggled, drinking champagne. Sören quietly marveled at how surreal his life was now, going from poverty in a tiny town in Iceland, to being whisked off for weekend trips around Europe, canoodling in a hot tub, drinking champagne like it was water. It was something that he never would have dreamt possible for himself when he was younger, not even as recently as a few years ago when he'd made it as a doctor and had a decent flat in Reykjavik and could live comfortably, if not extravagantly. It's like I've fallen through a looking glass, into a fairytale.

After their cuddle in the hot tub they had a sweet, languid sixty-nine, and, sated, tangled up together and drifted off to sleep. In the morning when the alarm woke them up, they started their day kissing, rubbing their cocks together, Anthony's hand covering Sören's as he took them both in his fist and stroked them to climax. Anthony tasted them from Sören's fingers, and Sören tasted them from Anthony's mouth, the two laughing softly as they rocked each other, legs entwined - it felt good to be alive. For at least a little while, all was right with the world.

They went down to the hotel restaurant for a light breakfast, and then they got in what sightseeing they could in the limited time they had. Anthony and Sören looked at City Hall and the Royal Palace, and Stockholm Cathedral. They went to Skansen, the open-air museum that housed five centuries of historic buildings and dwellings, and Sören felt both nostalgic for all of the ancient history preserved back in Iceland, but also comforted that here, too, in a sister-nation, the past was important.

Sören and Anthony chatted about that as they walked around, hand in hand. "I almost took Ancient History instead of Linguistics," Anthony said, "but I thought languages would be more practical in a law career - no need to use a translator if I had international clients."

"So you did, what, a diploma conversion?" Sören was still trying to wrap his head around the way things worked in the UK compared to Iceland's school system.

Anthony nodded. "That, too, was a matter of practicality, it was an easier route."

"Do you regret not going for history?"

"Yes and no? I don't regret becoming a lawyer. I might very well have become an archaeologist if I hadn't been compelled to law when I was younger, between what happened with my uncle and my own sad tale of defending myself against -" His voice trailed off and he looked away, wincing a little. Sören thought about asking, curious and a little concerned, but he knew not to press a sore spot, and it would be up to Anthony to say anything more about it or not. Anthony just patted his arm and they kept walking. "Ancient history still fascinates me. I was a bit of a nerd about it, growing up. I'm a product of the times we're in and I don't romanticize the past, I wouldn't want to live in the days when being what I am is illegal, or where life expectancy would be dramatically shortened with diseases we can prevent now, but I still find myself drawn to learn about the people who went before us, anyway."

"I imagine you would have made a good archaeologist. The same wanting to examine things, pick things apart and uncover the truth, that happens in the courtroom, já?"

"Especially eras that were misunderstood, misrepresented in some way, or peoples and places that were underappreciated as being particularly pivotal to history, setting the record straight... I suppose that's a recurring theme in my life." Anthony chuckled, looking a little sheepish. "If I believed in anything, like past lives, I'd start to wonder if maybe I had a past life where I had a famous brother or brothers and I was the 'boring' one according to history and that part of me saying 'hey, I was interesting, dammit!' isn't compensating now by this perverse, consuming need to prove others wrong and challenge assumptions and 'facts' that aren't actually so."

Sören giggled, and he gave Anthony a tight hug. "Awwwww, elskan. I don't find you boring in the slightest. I couldn't imagine you as ever being boring."

Anthony returned the hug. "And from where I stand, you're the more interesting of the two of us." He played with a lock of Sören's curls. "I find you fascinating."

"Well, I find you fascinating, elskan. You're not just a... flashy rich boy, a stuffy suit." Sören thought about the way he'd almost dismissed Anthony at their first meeting at National - which seemed like ages ago, even though it had just been November - and was glad he didn't. "There's depth to you, and I will never get tired of exploring it."

Anthony grabbed his face and kissed him hard, right in the middle of a very public place, lots of onlookers and passerby. Sören threw his arms around Anthony's neck and kissed him back, and when they pulled apart, breathless and giddy, Anthony said, "Come on, there's something I think you'd love to see."

They took the ferry to Djurgården, and Sören howled with laughter as Anthony dragged him to the ABBA Museum. As they waited in the queue, Sören started laughing all over again.

"Nothing says 'depth' like ABBA," Sören giggled.

"Nothing says 'serious professionals making a difference in the world' like going to the ABBA Museum."

"Anthony Wyatt-Jones, this is the gayest thing I've ever done in my life."

"Good."

They leaned on each other in hysterics, attracting some glares from other people in the queue who clearly thought waiting in line to see an ABBA museum was a serious affair, and after Anthony and Sören quieted down they stole a look at each other, smirking, mischief dancing in their eyes.

"Utmost decorum for ABBA," Anthony said, nodding solemnly.

"Very dignified. No funny business here, nope." Sören tried not to have another gigglefit. "Hey, this is so somber you should have brought your wig and robes."

"No." Now Anthony glared, but his eyes betrayed his amusement. "I could actually get in trouble for that, it's against our code of conduct to wear that outside the courtroom."

"Jæja, 'cos then the, ah... fashion police... would come arrest you guys and you'd be tying up your own legal system having to defend each other."

Anthony lost it again, turning bright red, shaking, tearing up. "Sören, I swear to god."

"You know... I really want to see you in it." Sören was giggling too. "The wig. The robes."

"No. No you don't."

"Yes, I do. You're going to show me one of these days." Sören started poking him. "You can't wear it in public, I guess because it looks too silly to be legal -"

Anthony facepalmed, laughing harder.

"But nobody's going to know if it's at home, in private."

"I'll feel ridiculous. It's one thing to wear it in the courtroom - it's like going on stage, assuming a role, it helps me get into a completely different mindset. And the court won't be swayed by the price of my suit, but by my arguments. It's another thing to wear it in front of someone who isn't one of my brethren, knowing it looks completely daft outside of that context."

"Oh, please? After a long, crazy week at work it's just the sort of thing I need to remind me the entire world isn't malfunctioning brains and spines and nerves."

"Really? I'd have thought seeing me dressed up like that would in fact remind you the world is malfunctioning brains..."

Now it was Sören's turn to explode into laughter, and Anthony laughed with him. Sören stroked Anthony's face, pleased he was with someone who shared his sense of humor.

Then Anthony said, "I will next time you have a weekend off, if you... if you do something equally ridiculous."

"Like what?"

Anthony shrugged. "Surprise me."

Sören grinned. "You're on."

The ABBA Museum was a delight - Sören giggled at the wax statues of ABBA, and the mannequins wearing their well-known, so-disco-era-it-hurt outfits from the 1970s. He howled appreciatively at Björn Ulvaeus's over-the-top "Malmberg" guitar, and poked around with curiosity at the recreations of their studio and makeup rooms.

"I feel, like, twenty percent more gay now," Sören said on their way out.

"Only twenty percent?"

Sören nodded.

They got dinner after that - it was already pitch dark, and bitter cold. Anthony had a platter of assorted fish with a side of cucumber salad, and Sören had a smoked salmon open-faced sandwich. They shared a piece of lingonberry-apple cake that Sören made a mental note to research the recipe of later, and Sören indulged in a bit of Absolut - not enough to lose agency, just enough to lower his inhibitions, make the world seem more electric, make him louder, more animated.

While waiting for a cab to take them back to the hotel, Sören wanted hot chocolate, so they each got a cup, and took it in the cab. Sören snuggled on Anthony in the cab ride home and Anthony pet him, which made Sören feel especially warm and cozy. He eventually felt too warm, between his outerwear, Anthony's proximity, the heating in the taxi, and the alcohol, and he asked Anthony if they could get out at an approaching park a few blocks away from the hotel and sit for awhile in the fresh air and walk to the hotel when they were ready. Anthony nodded.

The park was a winter wonderland, trees covered in ice and snow, snowdrifts glowing in the streetlights and the fairy lights around the park. There was an ice skating rink in the park and Anthony and Sören found a bench and watched the skaters. Sören was in a very good mood, and the vodka had loosened him up just enough that he felt like singing when he finished his hot chocolate.

Friday night and the lights are low
Looking out for a place to go
Where they play the right music, getting in the swing
You come to look for a king


Anthony turned red, shaking with silent laughter. "Oh my god, Sören."

Anybody could be that guy
Night is young and the music's high
With a bit of rock music, everything is fine
You're in the mood for a dance
And when you get the chance

You are the dancing queen
Young and sweet, only seventeen
Dancing queen
Feel the beat from the tambourine
Oh, yeah

You can dance, you can jive
Having the time of your life
Ooh, see that girl, watch that scene
Digging the dancing queen


A few passerby stopped and came round, clapping and swaying, encouraging Sören to keep singing.

You're a teaser, you turn 'em on
Leave them burning and then you're gone
Looking out for another, anyone will do
You're in the mood for a dance
And when you get the chance

You are the dancing queen
Young and sweet, only seventeen
Dancing queen
Feel the beat from the tambourine
Oh, yeah

You can dance, you can jive
Having the time of your life
Ooh, see that girl, watch that scene
Digging the dancing queen

Digging the dancing queen


Sören got wolf whistles and applause when the song was done, and he took a bow. Then someone saw the empty hot chocolate cup that Sören hadn't gotten around to throwing away yet and threw some coins in, and another put in paper money. Sören shrieked with laughter - tickled rather than offended that people thought he was a street performer - and, to Anthony's amusement, Sören continued on with another ABBA song... singing to Anthony.

My, my, at Waterloo Napoleon did surrender
Oh yeah, and I have met my destiny in quite a similar way
The history book on the shelf
Is always repeating itself

Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo - promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo - couldn't escape if I wanted to
Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo - finally facing my Waterloo


Anthony gave Sören an adoring look, even as he was also in hysterics from Sören's over-the-top, eat-your-heart-out-Freddie-Mercury performance. Sören continued belting out the song, with more onlookers gathered round, clapping and dancing.

My, my, I tried to hold you back but you were stronger
Oh yeah, and now it seems my only chance is giving up the fight
And how could I ever refuse
I feel like I win when I lose

Waterloo - I was defeated, you won the war
Waterloo - promise to love you for ever more
Waterloo - couldn't escape if I wanted to
Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo - finally facing my Waterloo

So how could I ever refuse
I feel like I win when I lose

Waterloo - couldn't escape if I wanted to
Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo - finally facing my Waterloo

Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you
Waterloo - finally facing my Waterloo
Waterloo - knowing my fate is to be with you


People in the crowd were calling out "Mer!" and "Annan!" and Sören got more money in his paper cup. Sören thought one more couldn't hurt.

Lay your head on my chest so you hear every beat of my heart
Now there's nothing at all that can keep us apart
Touch my lips, close your eyes and see with your fingertips
Things that you do, and you know I'm crazy 'bout you

Kisses of fire, burning, burning
I'm at the point of no returning
Kisses of fire, sweet devotions
Caught in a land-slide of emotions
I've had my share of love affairs but they were nothing compared to this
Oh, I'm riding higher than the sky and there is fire in every kiss
Kisses of fire
Kisses of fire


Sören's own face was burning now, feeling cheesy and overly sentimental yet this was the way to show his heart, in this moment.

When you sleep by my side I feel safe and I know I belong
Still it's making me scared that my love is so strong
Losing you is a nightmare fate and to me it's new
Never before did you see me begging for more

Kisses of fire, burning, burning
I'm at the point of no returning
Kisses of fire, sweet devotions
Caught in a land-slide of emotions
I've had my share of love affairs but they were nothing compared to this
Oh, I'm riding higher than the sky and there is fire in every kiss
Kisses of fire
Kisses of fire

Kisses of fire, burning, burning
I'm at the point of no returning
Kisses of fire, sweet devotions
Caught in a land-slide of emotions
Kisses of fire, burning, burning
(I'm at the point of no returning)
Kisses of fire, sweet devotions
I'm riding higher than the sky and there is fire in every kiss
(Caught in a land-slide of emotions)
Kisses of fire, burning, burning
I'm at the point of no returning
Kisses of fire, sweet devotions
Caught in a land-slide of emotions


The crowd clamored for more but Anthony was giving Sören that eat-you-alive look and Sören said, "Sorry, that's all for tonight!"

Anthony and Sören got up to walk to the hotel, arm in arm, laughing. "You are the silliest thing in existence," Anthony told him between kisses, "and somehow also the sexiest."

"Takk." Sören smirked. "I think we're even now, and you have to show me your wig and robes next time I've got a weekend free."

And then, into another kiss, Sören froze, eyes widening. Anthony stopped, making a noise of concern, and Sören just pointed up.

Though Anthony couldn't guarantee they'd see the northern lights on their trip, there it was, shimmering green and cyan with little touches of gold and fuchsia. No matter how many times Sören had seen an aurora borealis each one was its unique light show, nature's perfect pyrotechnics, and Sören's breath was taken away every time. Now moreso than ever, Sören's entire body breaking out into gooseflesh and chills, because he was here with the man he loved, sharing this magical moment with him.

"My god." Anthony's breath hitched.

"You were here before, have you ever seen an aurora?"

Anthony shook his head. "I was in Scandinavia for the summer, the midnight sun. Not this."

"So this is your first time?"

Anthony nodded. "I've seen photos but... live and in-person is so much... more." His voice was hushed with awe.

Sören squeezed his hand, tears coming to his eyes. When he looked at Anthony, he could see his lover looked about ready to cry too, and that made Sören love him even more.

They couldn't stop kissing in the elevator ride to the hotel room, completely overcome by the power of what they had just witnessed, and their own feelings for each other - Sören felt like they had discovered some sort of enchantment with their bond, as strange and ridiculous as that seemed to his skeptical, scientific mind, the artist part of him felt they'd touched something that was bigger than both of them, somehow.

It was enough that Sören felt like he could break, and didn't want to spend the evening crippled by tears - even tears of joy - and especially when they'd had such a lovely day. Sören once again needed humor to cope. He got out one of his mp3 playlists, entitled "Europop Trash", and queued it up on the stereo. He'd meant to select a song by ABBA, but accidentally hit Ace of Base, which was just as well for what he was about to do.

Sören began to do a striptease for Anthony Wyatt-Jones... to "The Sign" by Ace of Base. Anthony's reaction was a mixture of amusement at Sören's continued antics, and genuine lust for Sören dancing, undressing, putting on a show just for him. When the song was over Anthony pulled the now-naked Sören close to him - Anthony was still fully dressed - and he kissed Sören hard, reaching for Sören's erection, stroking gently.

Anthony quickly undressed and they got in bed together. Sören had forgotten to turn off the stereo as they fell in and the random shuffle on the stereo kicked in and just as Anthony and Sören started kissing, the stereo began to play

I'm a Barbie girl in the Barbie world
Life in plastic, it's fantastic!
You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation
Come on, Barbie, let's go party!


"Oh, sweet baby Jesus." Anthony let out a scream into the pillows, wheezing, turning bright red, holding his sides, tears streaming down his face.

Sören gigglesnorted, and then he began to do a dance on the bed, shaking his naked ass.

I'm a Barbie girl in the Barbie world
Life in plastic, it's fantastic!
You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere
Imagination, life is your creation

I'm a blond bimbo girl in a fantasy world
Dress me up, make it tight, I'm your dolly
You're my doll, rock'n'roll, feel the glamour in pink,
Kiss me here, touch me there, hanky panky...
You can touch, you can play, if you say, "I'm always yours."


"Help..." Anthony rolled off the bed.

Sören had to turn off the stereo. "Are you all right? I didn't mean to kill you."

Anthony attempted to get up, hanging on the side of the bed, and he had to sit on the floor for a moment, trying to pull himself together.

"Smooth, Sören. That was... suave." Anthony shook his head, still laughing.

"So now the question is... which one of us is Barbie? I'm guessing it's you." Sören snickered. "Trying to picture you with long blonde hair..."

"Jesus Christ, Sören."

Somehow, Anthony made it back on the bed. Sören pinned Anthony, laying on top of him. "There, now I've got you and you can't fall off again." With that, Sören rained kisses over his face.

They resumed kissing as before, all silliness forgotten as their passion took over, and soon Sören was riding Anthony's cock, bouncing wildly, his screams as loud as their laughter had been, if not louder. The euphoria of the evening made Sören feel more sensitized than usual, and when he climaxed he came hard, making a mess all over Anthony and himself, deeply gratified when Anthony came hard too, crying out Sören's name, and then just crying, pleasure so good it brought him to tears. Sören kissed his tears, pet him, and was moved to tears of his own. They held each other and rocked together. Usually they needed more than one round to slake their thirst, but this time the one was enough, completely shattering them, and when the tears calmed down and the blinding ecstasy and awe gave way to quiet, radiant joy, they drifted off to sleep.

In the middle of the night Sören stirred awake - his body wasn't used to sleeping for long periods of time and would wake him up at least once - and he got up to take a look out the window, taking in the view of Stockholm at night, still feeling a touch of surreality that he was here on a tiny holiday.

Then, after a couple of minutes, Anthony made a little noise of protest and mumbled, "Sören, come back to bed."

Sören got back in bed and Anthony pulled Sören close against him, grabbed him tight. "Need my blankey," Anthony said, clearly half-asleep still.

"Oh, I'm your blankey now?"

"Mhm. So warm." Anthony kissed Sören's shoulder. "Safe."

Sören felt a tug at his heart, a sharp ache. He'd already figured out he felt somewhat protective of Anthony, having seen his vulnerability that day Anthony confessed his love at Lincoln's Inn, then again when Anthony played piano for him, so shyly and sweetly, at his parents'. Sören felt protective enough to get in the way of attackers without thinking about it. Where the world might not think the suave, lacquered professional needed someone to watch over him, Sören knew on some level he did - Anthony took care of him, and he took care of Anthony. And in the truth of those barely-awake words, they touched Sören as deeply as any flowery poetry did.

I am my beloved's, and he is mine.


_


They hadn't gotten to do the sauna on Saturday as planned, but it was just as well because they slept in Sunday and had time for only one last real "Swedish experience" before they had to go to the airport to fly back.

The private sauna had wooden walls, floors, and benches. It was clean, though Anthony and Sören put down towels on their benches anyway, since Sören's conditioning as a surgeon was to see germs everywhere.

Though Sören and Anthony both noted they had an aversion to hot weather and it seemed odd they'd deliberately inflict high temperatures on themselves, the sauna was a very different experience. Sören started to feel deeply relaxed in the steam, like a bunch of lingering tension was melting out of his body, as well as general malaise and a sense of miasma he carried with him day to day. Anthony looked noticeably at ease, and Sören couldn't help staring at him, enjoying how peaceful he looked.

Then Sören enjoyed the view for an entirely different reason, feeling arousal coming on at the sight of Anthony glistening from sweat. Sören was slick with sweat too, and soon enough he noticed Anthony noticing him, that familiar predatory look in his eye.

Sören came closer, and they began to kiss, hands roaming, caressing. When Anthony started kissing Sören's neck, he reached for Sören's hard cock and Sören moaned, grabbing Anthony's cock and playing. With their free hands they continued wandering, exploring, teasing, wanting to touch and feel every inch of each other that they could.

Sören's internal jury was out about how safe certain positions were in the high heat, or how much exertion past a certain point was safe. But they were both too far gone to not take care of their needs in their somehow, and the steam heat seemed to make Sören's skin feel more sensitive, more reactive, even as his lust burned hotter for the sight of his lover sweat-slick, the intoxicating smell of sweat and arousal, something deliciously male.

Sören found himself getting on his knees and taking Anthony's cock into his mouth, sucking greedily as Anthony moaned, panted, grabbed Sören's damp curls. When Anthony began to gently fuck Sören's mouth, moaning louder, it was all Sören could do to not come right there, loving that feeling of being under his control. And when Anthony came in his mouth he seemed to taste better than usual - he always tasted good, but now Sören gave a deep "mmmm" as he swallowed, licking his lips, loving it, licking Anthony clean.

Sören got back on the bench and Anthony returned the favor. Sören was so turned on by sucking Anthony that it didn't take long for Anthony to bring him off, and he seemed to enjoy Sören's flavor just as much, murmuring "that's lovely" after he swallowed, before lapping up the seed continuing to flow from Sören's cock.

They weren't quite spent - sucking Sören to climax had gotten Anthony hard again, and tasting himself on Anthony, feeling how ready he was to go again, made Sören crazy with desire. Sören sat on Anthony's lap, facing him, and with Anthony's arms around him, holding him close, kissing him deep, Sören sank down. Sören was still open from last night, and they were sweat-slick enough that they didn't need lube. He groaned as he felt Anthony stretching him, and they both cried out when Anthony bottomed out, all the way inside him. Sören rested for a moment, savoring that first moment of connection, that feeling of oneness between them, looking into Anthony's green eyes and feeling perfect love and perfect trust.

The heat of the sauna was mirrored in their passion, Sören riding Anthony like it was their first time, like it was their last time. Their hands played over each other, needing to touch, needing to have and hold and give and take and please and tease and love. Every kiss stoked the fire hotter, and as badly as Sören needed to come he needed to keep feeling Anthony inside him, hitting that perfect note of pleasure in him again and again, completely and utterly lost in that place that was only theirs, where the hectic, chaotic world could not intrude, could not take this from them.

"I love you," Sören ground out between kisses.

"I love you."

"I'm gonna come soon, elskan."

Anthony grabbed Sören harder, holding him for dear life. Sören rode, feverish, not caring if it was too much. It was never too much, never enough, needing. Sören whimpered, panted, gasped, as Anthony groaned, growled, their kisses deeper and deeper, fierce, demanding. At last Anthony's eyes met his, green fire blazing his soul. "Come for me."

Sören let go, screaming, his entire body feeling like he'd been shocked, and through it, the awe of what this man could make him feel, that such a physical act could be so transcendent, so luminous, like they were stealing fire from heaven. Anthony cried out as he spent into Sören, and Sören gasped at the feeling of Anthony spilling into him, the evidence of their union. He loved that feeling of being marked, claimed, filled by the man he loved. Anthony knew he loved it, tenderness in his own eyes as he crushed Sören against him, kissed him with all the fire hidden beneath the cool, professional exterior, fire burning all the hotter for being secret, like magma flowing.

Anthony held him then, rocked him, pet him, and Sören sighed, the contentment post-orgasm even stronger in the steam of the sauna. And it felt so right for them to love like this here...

...fire calling to fire.

Sören was in a bit of a daze on the ride to the airport, and on the flight back to London. Not quite asleep, but he felt out of it, in the best possible way, as deeply relaxed and content as he'd felt in ages. He rested on Anthony's shoulder on the flight home, who wrapped them up together in a blanket and pet and pet Sören, untiring of touching him.

Back at the flat in London, Sören finally snapped back to consciousness as he took a shower, but also felt drained - again, in a good way, tired but happy. They finished their weekend with Anthony sitting on the couch in his pajamas, wearing his glasses as he attended to a last-minute pile of paperwork before Monday morning, and Sören lay across the couch, head in his lap in a non-sexual way, Anthony idly petting and stroking him as he looked things over, between dashes of his pen.

Finally Anthony's work was done and he fully attended to Sören, rubbing his shoulders.

"Thank you for this weekend," Sören said, smiling up at him.

"Thank you."

"That was wonderful, beyond words."

Anthony smiled, stroking Sören's face. "That was just the beginning. There is so much more I want to give you." He pulled Sören up and gave him a kiss. "I would give you the moon if I could."

"I don't need the moon, Anthony. Just you."

Chapter Text

Sören had to work all of the following weekend, and then after another long week, he had Saturday, January twenty-eighth off. He would have to work on Sunday, starting early into the evening, but at least he had Friday night and all of Saturday with Anthony.

Though clubbing had sounded like a fun option for a Saturday night when they were both free, it started to snow hard on Friday night, enough that Anthony took a detour picking Sören up from the hospital to stock up groceries for a few days so they wouldn't have to go out, and sure enough when they woke on Saturday morning, London had received a decent amount of snow, and it was still coming down, not as hard as it was last night, but even a little bit seemed like too much.

"Well, I'm not going anywhere today," Anthony said, looking out the window.

"That's fine. To be honest a quiet day at home feels like just what I need," Sören said. He chuckled, looking at his red plaid flannel pajamas. "I'm not even going to get dressed today."

"Neither am I." Anthony smiled, also in his pajamas, black silk, under a black bathrobe. "It's nice to have a day to not have to go anywhere or do anything or be anything."

Even as Sören felt lazy, he also felt motivated enough to work on getting dinner started in the slow cooker, a homemade lamb stew that seemed perfect for a cold, snowy day like this. Sören wanted to work to music, so he put on an mp3 playlist of songs from the 1970s and 1980s that made him nostalgic for his early childhood and when his mamma made a stew just like this. Anthony hovered in the kitchen, and soon enough hovering turned into grabbing Sören from behind and kissing his neck, and Sören knew dinner would never get started if he kept doing that, so he needed to find Anthony a distraction, politely.

And then "Dancing Queen" by ABBA came on and Sören and Anthony took one look at each other and burst into laughter, remembering how two weekends ago Sören, after having some Absolut at a restaurant in Stockholm, was emboldened enough to break into ABBA songs in a Swedish park, drawing a crowd. Sören also remembered how Anthony had said in order for Sören to see him in his barrister getup, Sören had to do something ridiculous.

"Well then," Sören said, brandishing the knife in Anthony's general direction - more of a joke than an actual threat, "I think it's time you paid up."

"Paid up?"

Sören gave him a look. "I made an arse of myself in Stockholm, singing this -"

"Oh, I don't know about that, you were quite good, people liked it -"

"People can like it and still think I look like an arse, and let's be real, I did." Sören raised an eyebrow. "Go on, show me your courtroom outfit."

"Oh dear god." Anthony pinched the bridge of his nose, turning beetroot.

"Do it or I'll make you listen to 'Never Gonna Give You Up' for the next four hours on repeat."

Anthony rolled his eyes and walked off. A few minutes later, when everything was in the crock pot and Sören set it to simmer, his back turned, Sören heard a dramatic clear of the throat.

Sören turned around and saw Anthony wearing a solemn black robe with a white shirt underneath sporting tails on the collar, and a yellowing grey-white wig that was in tight rolled curls on the top and led out to a curly tail in the back. Anthony tried to give him the most deadly serious expression that he could muster, but his cheeks were pink and his eyes were twinkling.

"Hvað í fjandanum." Sören tried not to laugh, and failed at it, doubling over the counter, snorting. "Wow, that's... that's worse than I thought."

"Yes, yes, I know. It's a tradition, and though it looks daft outside of the court, there are valid reasons for upholding the tradition, like I explained to you in Stockholm."

"How old is that wig?" Sören wrinkled his nose. "Shouldn't it have a bath?"

"There is an attitude that the older and more crap your wig looks, the more prestige it affords you. Myself and several of my diploma group brethren put our wigs near car exhausts to try to age them up when we started at our respective Inns."

"...Wow. That's... wow. Well, it certainly looks old, Anthony. Looks like a goddamn relic." And then, not able to help himself, Sören said, "Rock me, Amadeus!"

"Oh. God."

Sören needed to make it worse. He went over to the stereo, and selected "Rock Me Amadeus" by Falco on the playlist, turning up the volume.

Ooh, rock me, Amadeus!

Er war ein Punker und er lebte in der großen Stadt
Es war in Wien, war Vienna, wo er alles tat
Er hatte Schulden, denn er trank, doch ihn liebten alle Frauen
Und jede rief: "Come and rock me Amadeus!"
Er war Superstar, er war populär
Er war so exaltiert, because er hatte Flair
Er war ein Virtuose, war ein Rockidol
Und alles rief: "Come and rock me Amadeus!"

Amadeus, Amadeus, Amadeus
Amadeus, Amadeus, Amadeus
Amadeus, Amadeus - oh, oh, oh - Amadeus
Come and rock me Amadeus!


Anthony looked like he wanted to be offended and couldn't be, shaking with silent laughter, eyes crinkling at the corners. "Sören Sigurdsson, I swear to god."

"Hey, now I know what to have as the ringtone for your number!" Sören grinned and rushed to his phone, and as "Rock Me Amadeus" continued playing, Sören went to his ringtone app, found a ringtone that was a sample of the chorus of "Rock Me Amadeus", downloaded it and programmed it into the phone as his ringtone for Anthony.

"You're terrible."

"No, that wig is terrible. Does it..." Sören tried to catch his breath, another gigglefit coming on at the sight of Anthony attempting to look dignified there in the living room with the wig and robe still on. "Doesn't it itch?"

"Not really. It's more hot and heavy as far as discomfort goes."

"Hot and heavy, eh?" Sören waggled his eyebrows. He stroked his chin thoughtfully, determined to push the envelope as far as he could get away with. "You think any barristers wear the wig during sex?"

"Sören." Anthony's eyes narrowed.

"Would you wear the wig when we shag if I asked you?" Sören waggled his eyebrows again and he let Anthony turn beetroot and splutter for a full minute before Sören admitted, "That was a joke." Then he quipped, not able to resist, "Mostly."

"All right. You've seen enough." Anthony began to walk back towards the bedroom. Before he could completely leave the living room, Sören called out, "Wait." Anthony waited.

"Let me see the wig? You can get the robe off but I want to... touch it. It's curiosity, it's going to drive me mad if I don't." That wasn't a lie, but Sören also wasn't done trolling Anthony yet.

Anthony took off the wig and tossed it to Sören, who caught it, and then Sören said, "Hey, that was fun. This could be a new sport, wig tossing..."

Anthony made noises as he stormed down the hall. As he approached the living room again, Sören heard him before he saw him, with Anthony calling down, "All right, Sören, you've had your fun touching -"

Anthony came out - once again in his pajamas and bathrobe - to see Sören sitting on the couch with the wig in his lap as if it were a cat, petting it.

"Sören, what are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing? He likes me," Sören said, petting the wig some more.

Anthony once again gave him that mock offended glare, trying not to encourage Sören by laughing. "Sören. Sören Sigurdsson."

"Jæja?" Sören skritched the wig. "Oh, what's that?" He held the wig up to his ear as if the wig were telling him something, and then he patted the wig and told Anthony, "He's not ready to go back in the closet yet."

"He..." Anthony pinched the bridge of his nose. "Sören, that is a wig. It is not a he."

Sören gave him a shocked look, putting a hand to his open mouth as he covered the "ears" of the wig with the other. "Oh my god, Anthony, you'll hurt his feelings."

Anthony made a "give it back" gesture, and Sören shook his head. "No," he said, and scooped the wig up into his arms, cradling the wig like a baby, rocking it. "He spends all that time alone in your closet, and when he's not he has to sit on your head while you're in court. That's no fun. Let him spend some time with his new friend. I bet he doesn't even have a name." Sören looked down at the wig. "Do you?" Sören made the wig move like it was shaking its head.

"Oh. My. God..."

Sören skritched the wig, rocking it. "I will pet him and love him and call him George."

Anthony lost it at the literary reference. He went to the kitchen to make tea, trying to pull himself together and failing. "Dammit, Sören..."

Sören began to make a purring noise, like the wig was his ventriloquist's dummy. "Oh, he likes that. Don't you, George?" The purring got louder. Sören held the wig close and pet it and sang:

Soft kitty
Warm kitty
Little ball of fur
Happy kitty
Sleepy kitty
Purr, purr, purr.


As if on cue, "Soft and Wet" by Prince came on Sören's 70s and 80s playlist via the stereo's random shuffle feature.

Hey, lover, I got a sugarcane
That I wanna lose in you,
Baby can you stand the pain
Hey, lover, sugar don't you see?
There's so many things that you do to me
Ooo baby!


"I DIDN'T MEAN THAT KIND OF KITTY, PRINCE," Sören shouted at the stereo, and Anthony buried his face in his arms on the kitchen counter when Sören said, "This isn't that kind of wig."

"Sören, give me the wig now," Anthony said, making the "give it back" gesture again, this time with both hands.

"He has a name. You can only have him back if you show him enough respect to use his -"

"OK, fine. Give me back... George." Anthony wheezed. "I can't fucking believe this..."

Sören tossed the wig at him and Anthony caught it. He stalked off, glaring at Sören, who stuck his tongue out. When Anthony came back he was still beetroot and shaking from laughter, and he sat next to Sören on the couch.

When tea was ready Anthony got up, and a few minutes later he brought over Earl Grey for both of them. Sören watched the snow out the window, entranced, but his attention kept going back to Anthony who was losing it again.

"That was seriously disturbing," Anthony said.

"Takk." Sören sipped his tea.

When Anthony sipped his, Sören decided he had to take one last shot, for now. He stroked his beard thoughtfully and said, "I think I figured out why you lot can only wear that in the courtroom."

Anthony raised his eyebrow and took another sip of tea, waiting.

"They'll get loose and start... breeding. Like Tribbles."

Anthony spat his tea, had to put his cup down, and wiped his face and bathrobe, shaking, leaning on Sören as he doubled over, tears streaming down his red face. "Sören..."

"Court doesn't set the right mood, but if they were around outside of it, ho ho ho..." Sören rolled his eyes. "Lincoln's Inn would be overrun with little baby wigs..."

Anthony made inhuman noises. "Sören. Sören. Stop. You're killing me."

"All right, all right." Sören patted him. "I'll stop... for now. This isn't over yet."

"Ye gods." Anthony shook his head and picked his tea back up.

When their tea was finished, Anthony went to the sink, and on his way back he lingered at his bookshelf. Anthony selected a hardcover copy of The Master and Margarita, retrieved his glasses from his desk, and got back on the couch next to Sören.

Sören considered getting a book himself, since Anthony had told him awhile back to feel free to do so, but Sören felt brain-dead from having worked such long hours all week that he didn't feel like he could get into something involved like reading. He was nonetheless feeling too mentally restless to do something like zone out watching TV or a movie from Anthony's DVD collection. Sören decided to paint, which he hadn't done in awhile. But by the time he set up an easel and had assembled his paints and brushes, it was such a big production that Sören lost all motivation to paint, and he flomped down on the couch next to Anthony with a disgruntled noise.

"What's the matter?" Anthony asked, looking up from his book, concern on his face.

"Oh, just... this bullshit keeps happening." Sören gestured over to the easel and paints set up near Anthony's desk. "I can't have that stuff out all the time, it takes up too much room, but by the time I get it all together my brain decides it's too tired and doesn't want to paint anymore. It's why I hardly ever paint now."

Anthony frowned. "Do you think it would help if next time I set things up for you?"

Sören shook his head. "It's too involved, stuff like having to sort through my colors - knowing the difference between shit like cadmium yellow and cadmium lemon, phthalo blue and ultramarine, that kind of thing - and a lot of the times when I paint I don't know what colors I'll be using till I actually go through them myself." Sören sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "It's frustrating. Art is one of the ways I cope and it's..." Sören made a vague hand gesture in the direction of his easel and paints. "It would be so much easier if I just had everything instantly available at the touch of my fingertips."

Anthony's brow furrowed, and he patted Sören, rubbed his shoulder, leaned in to give Sören a little kiss. "I'm sorry."

"Já, me too."

Anthony put his book down. "You want to watch anything? Or..."

"Well, I wanted to do something, but I'm too tapped out for art, too tapped out to read, and not tapped out enough to watch something. I hate it when I get like this, energy I don't know what to do with."

Anthony thought for a moment. "I have an idea."

"Does it involve George?"

Anthony gave Sören a playful swat with the book, and Sören tweaked his nose, and Anthony mussed Sören's curls. Then, giving Sören another little kiss, he said, "It's something I haven't done in a long while, actually. Well... technically you and I did this, over Christmas, but that was back at my parents' house." He got up and stooped in front of the TV, rummaged in the cabinet underneath, and Sören watched as he pulled out a gaming console and a box of old video games. "Yes?"

"Oh my god, yes." Sören nodded enthusiastically.

Anthony showed him what he had, and they mutually decided upon Sonic the Hedgehog. They would play a few rounds before dinner, trading off who got to be Sonic and who got to be Tails, based on who won the previous round.

Sören hadn't played video games since he was a teenager - they weren't fun to him unless he had someone to play with, and he'd had nobody in his life, not even friends, until Anthony. Once again Sören felt a touch of how surreal his life had become, a neurosurgeon and a barrister, two professionals, playing Sonic the Hedgehog in their pajamas. And it was exactly the sort of change Sören welcomed. He could tell Anthony needed it too, relaxing and having fun, like the two of them were two big kids again.

They took a break for dinner when the crock pot was ready. Anthony profusely complimented his bowl of lamb stew. "Sören, this is so good. You cook at least as well as my mum, if not better."

"Awww, I mean... it's just stew. It's nothing fancy."

"No, it's really good. I can't cook like you can, and it's just... it's nice, having a home-cooked meal, and one that was made with appreciable talent... and love."

"Well, I do love you. And I'm glad. I don't always have the energy to cook, but when I have time I like to do things like this, make enough to have leftovers for the next day or the day after."

"It means a lot, that you do this when your free time is so precious." Anthony kissed him. "And you're very, very good at it."

Sören beamed, glowing with pride at what he could tell was a sincere compliment. "I try."

"You definitely succeed. I'll handle cleanup, since you cooked. Oh, speaking of which, the housekeeper is coming tomorrow when you're at work." Anthony was fairly proactive about cleaning up after himself to keep the place tidy and functional, but with his schedule being what it was he preferred to have a housekeeper come in once or twice a month for a few hours to do a more thorough job with the flat. Sören was relieved by this, and he was touched that it was one of Anthony's former clients, a woman from "an unfortunate background" who was now making a living as a maid. Anthony did insist on being there when she came, explaining to Sören he'd want to be around for any housekeeping whether the person had a criminal past or not, but she had been on the right side of the law since she'd had her day in court.

"Oh, if I'd have known I would have picked up stuff at the store to make her a batch of cookies or brownies."

"Oh, Sören. You're so sweet sometimes I can barely believe you're real."

"Well, it's not entirely unselfish. I could go for some cookies or brownies, myself." Sören made a little whine.

"Hold that thought."

After Anthony did dishes, he came back with a carton of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and two spoons. Sören laughed at the sight of it and gave Anthony a kiss when he sat down. "Awwwwwww, my hero."

"Shall we play another round?"

"Yes, please."

As they played more Sonic the Hedgehog, they ate ice cream straight from the container, and after awhile they began feeding each other spoonfuls of ice cream. When they'd finally had their fill of the game, Anthony put one last spoonful in Sören's mouth - heat in his eyes as Sören sucked the spoon suggestively - and he stole a kiss, sharing the ice cream in the kiss. They lingered, petting each other, nuzzling. Sören's cock was starting to wake up, not quite fully erect, but reminding him it would be nice to make love later.

The cold ice cream made them both want something hot to drink, so when Anthony went to put the carton back in the freezer he made more tea, and they cuddled together on the couch with a microfleece blanket wrapped around them, drinking tea.

"This has been a surprisingly nice day," Anthony said. "Not a care in the world."

"Except me making friends with George."

Anthony facepalmed. "Goddammit, Sören..."

"Poor George, in the closet, all alone..."

"Why are you like this?"

"Because you need it." Sören kissed the tip of his nose. "And I do too. If I really go too far then by all means say something, but you know you don't hate this."

"No, I don't." Anthony sighed and he pulled Sören closer, kissing Sören's brow. "I think I mentioned to you once that... well... when I was young, I wished I had two brothers."

"You mentioned that, yes."

Anthony nodded. "Two brothers, preferably older so they could look out for me, give me advice... have my back in that 'nobody gets to be an arse to you but me' sort of way that seems to be common among siblings."

Sören nodded, remembering his own childhood.

"I also wished I had a younger sister. Not too young, just a few years younger. Someone I could look out for, do some ribbing, myself." Anthony frowned. "But... I'm an only child, for better or worse. For all my privilege, there were times when I would have rather been worse off but had more of a family, than what I do. And I'm sure there are plenty of people worse off who would have gladly taken my lot in life, traded a sibling for the privilege. We don't always get what we want, and having a family has been one of the things money can't buy me."

Sören felt bad for him; Sören's arms tightened around him. "I used to wish sometimes I had a younger brother," Sören confessed. "Dag is seven minutes younger than me, but that's... not the same thing, really." He gave a wistful sigh.

His eyes soft, Anthony stroked Sören's face, pet his curls, kissed the top of his head. "It's strange. You're my partner, I'm fiercely attracted to you. But in a sense you're also like... the brother I never had. The older brother I always wanted, even though you're younger than me - you look out for me. You put yourself in harm's way for me on New Year's Eve, I'll never forget that."

"Awwwwwwwwwwww?" Sören squeezed him even harder. "That's so sweet?"

Anthony chuckled. "It also sounds fucked up, doesn't it? A bit incestuous."

And underneath the blanket, their pajama-clad bodies close together, Sören could feel Anthony hard against him. And Sören found his own cock was responding.

They kissed, tongues teasing, tasting, and Sören's hand slid down to the hard bulge in Anthony's pajama bottoms, rubbing gently. "Definitely quite a bit incestuous." Sören felt Anthony's cock leap under his touch, heard the telltale catch in Anthony's breath, and Sören gave a little groan of his own, cock twinging.

"Oh god." Anthony took a few deep breaths. "This is all kinds of wrong."

"It is," Sören admitted. "But your cock and mine seem to think it's all kinds of wrong in just the right way." Sören stole another kiss.

"Sören..." Anthony looked nervous, but there was a neediness in his eyes as well. "I don't want you to get the wrong idea about me. I would never do anything -"

"No, neither would I. I have no interest in my brother, Dag." Sören made a face, not even able to think about it. "Though..." Sören chuckled, feeling sheepish that he didn't realize this sooner. "You look more like you're related to Dag, than I do. That's a little unsettling." Sören kissed Anthony again. "Not unsettling enough, though." They kissed again.

"Oh god. Sören." Anthony shuddered. "I..."

Sören peeled the blanket off them. His heart was pounding in his ears, knowing he was about to cross a line, a line he would have never dreamed of crossing prior to five minutes ago, and yet here they were, and Sören's body was screaming with sexual hunger, his cock and hole throbbing at the delicious forbidden fruit held out before them. Sören dropped from the couch onto his knees and pulled Anthony's pajama pants down just enough to free his hard cock. "You want what you want. Your body doesn't lie." And then Sören took a lick at the head of Anthony's cock, looking into his eyes, watching as Anthony gasped, trembled. Sören took a few more licks, smiling as Anthony's breath hitched and he let out a moan, reaching out to grab Sören's curls. "Does my little brother like that?"

"Ohgod." Anthony was panting now, and Sören grinned at the way his cock jolted at those words.

This is so fucking wrong. But Sören wanted it too. Sören licked Anthony's cock some more, tongue rubbing in the slit, teasing it. When his lips wrapped around the head of Anthony's cock and he swirled his tongue as he sucked, kissing it, Anthony got more vocal, moaning, sighing. Anthony let out a cry when Sören let the cock slip and went back to rubbing his tongue around the head. "Mmmmmm, I love teasing my little brother," Sören husked.

That did it. Anthony grabbed Sören's curls hard, and growled, "You. Me. Bedroom. Now."

"Such a demanding spoilt brat my little brother is -"

Anthony yanked Sören up to his feet and he was right there, dragging Sören along with him, kissing him as passionately as Sören had ever been kissed. Once they were in the bedroom they undressed each other, letting their pajamas slip to the floor, and then Anthony shoved Sören onto the bed and climbed over him, a feral, dangerous look in his eyes that made Sören's own cock jolt and drip precum, wanting him, wanting this next level of exploration.

"If I'm a brat," Anthony ground out, "it runs in the family." He kissed Sören hard.

They groaned as their hard cocks slid together, and Anthony moaned again as Sören's hands ran over him.

"Mmmmmmmmmm, yes it does." Sören kissed Anthony back, and began to kiss Anthony's neck, making him moan and shiver; Sören licked and nibbled his neck, smirking as he felt Anthony's cock stiffening even more. "Well, then. If you're going to do something, no sense in doing it halfway, já? My brother should show me what a terror he can be."

Anthony growled and bit Sören's neck, then his shoulder, and now it was Sören's turn to tremble, crying out, his cock twinging and jolting against Anthony's. Anthony groaned as he felt Sören responding, and Anthony licked where his teeth had been, licked down to Sören's nipple, laving, lapping, lashing. Sören cried out again, and let out a howl when Anthony's teeth were on his nipple, then he suckled, soothing and tormenting all at once, before licking some more. Back and forth he went between Sören's nipples, teasing them into hard, aching peaks, getting them ripe and swollen, making Sören writhe and sob with pleasure and frustration. Anthony teased him and teased him, fingers rubbing one as his mouth worked on the other, knowing too well what drove Sören mad.

Then he continued to kiss his way down, and spent awhile kissing, licking, and nibbling Sören's stomach, kissing and biting Sören's exquisitely sensitive inner thighs. Sören knew he was going to have bruises there tomorrow and he didn't care - to the contrary, he loved seeing that evidence of where Anthony had been, what Anthony had done, making him his. And there was something about that tonight, with this game they were playing, that felt even more delicious than usual. "Mmmm, I'm going to look down tomorrow and see what my brother did to me."

"Oh, fuck." Anthony bit Sören's thigh harder, making Sören yelp.

And then Anthony was licking his cock, just licking and licking and licking, as Sören panted, gasped, whimpered, clutching Anthony's head, being dangled on that edge of sensation, driven out of his mind. When Anthony finally relented and took Sören into his mouth he sucked slowly, deliberately, agonizingly slowly, and Sören whined, his voice raspy as he called out "Anthony. Please. Please..."

Anthony was not inclined to give in to Sören's pleas for release any time soon. After a few minutes of slow sucking Sören's cock, he let it slip, tongue-bathed it some more, and then his tongue slid down from the head to the shaft down further to Sören's balls, then the sensitive place between balls and ass, and then his tongue was inside Sören, slowly rubbing that sweet spot inside him, bringing Sören closer to release but still keeping it out of the way, mischief in his eyes as he looked over the length of Sören's body up at him, watching Sören's desperate, needy reactions.

"Oh god. Anthony. Anthony. Please. Please, please, fucking please, PLEASE..."

Anthony gave a few teasing licks around the rim of Sören's opening and then pushed his tongue back inside, licking even more slowly than before. Sören gave a scream and Anthony laughed softly, replying with a wicked "mmmmmmm".

"Anthony. Please. Anthony. Please. Please. Please, please, please, please..."

Anthony finally stopped licking and said, "Please, what?"

"Please, fuck me..."

"Wrong answer." Anthony resumed licking, slowly, slowly, and Sören howled, whined. Sören thought he had a better appreciation of what an animal must feel during heat, now, the all-consuming, shameless need to just get fucked, be filled and satisfied. Sören felt ready to cry, Anthony's tongue was too delicious and he needed more. So much more.

"Anthony, please, please, fucking please, I'm begging you, please..."

Anthony paused again and asked, "What's the magic word, Sören?"

And then Sören knew. "Please, brother."

That was indeed the magic word, and that it was made Sören's cock and hole both twitch when Anthony stopped licking and kissed his way up Sören's body. Anthony got the lube and started teasing Sören's nipples again as he readied Sören's passage with slick fingers, claimed Sören's mouth roughly as he slicked his own cock. When he pushed inside Sören felt like crying with a combination of relief and intensified need, and when Anthony was all the way in, their eyes met, and the feeling of breathing each other's breath during this experience of newfound closeness, speaking the truth of their hearts, threatened to set Sören off right then.

Anthony kept the pace slow for the first few minutes, agonizingly, deliciously, tormenting them both. They kissed and kissed, hands playing over each other's bodies, needing to touch, feel every inch of each other that they could reach. "I love you, brother," Anthony husked with such longing in his eyes that it brought tears to Sören's own, feeling the loneliness he'd felt for so long, that sense of something missing that hadn't been safe to fill before now.

Sören reached up to stroke Anthony's face, muss his hair. "I love you, brother."

Anthony kissed him harder. He moved inside Sören just a little faster, and Sören's hands slid down to Anthony's hips, Sören rolling his hips back at him. "You feel so good," Anthony whispered, kissing and licking Sören's neck, making Sören quiver.

"You feel good." Sören's lips quirked. "My little brother isn't so little." Sören gave a groan. "So big. So full inside me."

Anthony grabbed Sören's wrists and pinned them, and began to thrust into him harder, faster. He nipped Sören's lower lip, and Sören cried out into another heated kiss.

"So rough, little brother!" Not that Sören minded - just the opposite, Sören moaning, throbbing at the luscious rhythm inside him, stroking the sweet spot so right.

Anthony went even harder and faster, biting Sören's neck. Sören loved it, whimpering, gasping, bucking underneath him. "Oh god, my brother's so evil..."

"You may be the big brother," Anthony rasped, licking Sören's neck, "but I'm the one in charge."

"Oh god. Yes, yes, yes, fucking YES, FUCK ME, brother..."

With Sören's legs on his shoulders, Anthony drove into him with fast, furious, frenzied abandon, pounding Sören harder and harder, hammering away at that sweet spot in him just right. When Anthony let go of Sören's wrists, Sören's nails raked Anthony's back, and between fierce, hot kisses Sören cried out, "Brother, brother, more, brother, more..."

"My brother." Anthony kissed him with wild, desperate need that made Sören ache. "My brother..."

"Oh god, brother, fuck me, brother, fokk mér litli bróðir!"

Anthony groaned, slamming into Sören even harder, nibbling on him, moving in for the kill. Sören's nails scratched down his back as he clung to Anthony for dear life, bounced and rocked away underneath him, giving back as good as he got, wanting this as badly as he'd wanted anything. It was so wrong, so fucked up, and that just made it hotter to Sören, their broken places fitting together just the right way, intimacy even deeper stumbling upon this secret kink together, this terrible longing they both carried inside them. It was like coming home to a home Sören didn't even know existed, being reunited with someone lost, something precious.

"Brother. Brother, litli bróðir, I love you..."

Anthony kissed Sören hard, and then soft and sweet. "I need you."

"Take what you need."

Anthony took Sören's face in his hands and kissed him again. He slowed down, teasing them both, edging them, keeping them in this moment of deep, wild magic as long as possible, until they were both shaking, gasping, and then he grabbed Sören's wrists again and pinned him as he fucked Sören even harder than before, Sören crying out with each savage, punishing thrust.

"Come for me, brother," Anthony growled.

Sören screamed as he lost control, eyes rolling, his entire body shaking, toes curling, his cock and inner walls pulsing and pulsing, making a shameless, glorious mess all over both of them as his cock spent again and again. Three thrusts later and Anthony came with a deep, delicious groan of male satisfaction, making Sören shoot again.

"Oh god," Sören gasped, still shuddering. Tears burned his eyes, flooded his cheeks, overcome by emotion, by the gravity of what they'd just done. "Oh god..."

Anthony was crying too, quietly. "Sören." He stroked Sören's face, kissed his tears. "Sören, I love you."

They clung to each other, rocking, shaking, at last sobbing, both men no longer hiding the full emotional impact of what they'd just done.

"I hope you're not going to judge me now," Sören choked out through his tears.

"No, Sören, I hope you're not going to judge me."

"We needed that," Sören said, "clearly. It hit something in both of us just the right way."

"It did," Anthony said, nodding, "and that's kind of terrifying. It's not something I'd do with -"

Sören put up a hand in protest. "I know. Neither of us would. This is just... a game." Sören stroked Anthony's hair and face. "A kink we both have. And you know what?" Sören kissed the tip of his nose. "We're not hurting anyone." Sören kissed him softly.

"No. I think it's... the opposite. This feels like it's... healing something hurt." Anthony blinked back more tears, wiped his eyes with the heel of his hand. "My childhood was incredibly lonely, Sören."

Sören wept afresh, crying for him. He rained kisses over Anthony's face, then held him close, petting him. "You're not alone anymore. We've got each other." He leaned in and whispered, "We found our way home, little brother."

Anthony rose and kissed Sören hard enough to take his breath away, hard enough to stir their spent cocks. Now Sören rolled Anthony onto his back and began to give him the same treatment, kissing Anthony's neck, lapping and suckling the nipples, kissing and nibbling his stomach. When he started licking and sucking and biting Anthony's inner thigh, Anthony grabbed his curls and commanded, "Sören, just take me already."

Sören laughed and came up to kiss him, reaching for the lube. "Don't you like it when I love you, little brother?"

"I do. Any other night I would let you. But here, now..." Anthony looked into Sören's eyes with such longing that it made Sören tear up again. "I need too much, Sören."

"Never too much," Sören rasped and kissed him hard as he pushed slick fingers into him, playing with that place inside him, readying him.

When Sören's cock was all the way in, he was gratified by the way Anthony moaned and trembled, clutching at him. Sören hooked Anthony's right leg around his waist and began to thrust, neither too fast nor too slow, moaning himself as he plunged into silken heat, the sweet vise-like grip around him, rippling against him one way then the other as he glided back and forth, in and out.

"You feel so good to me, little brother," Sören whispered.

Anthony grabbed Sören and kissed him. "You feel so right inside me, big brother." He kissed Sören again. "This is so wrong... and so right." He shuddered.

"We were made to fuck each other," Sören rasped, before claiming Anthony's mouth again.

Anthony's eyes widened and he gasped into the kiss, as if something snapped in his head, and the next thing Sören knew, Anthony rolled Sören onto his back and began to ride him. Sören loved it, enjoying the view, enjoying the passion. He grabbed Anthony's hips and thrust into him hard, and Anthony grabbed onto Sören for dear life. With the wild, frantic ride, they didn't last long, Anthony coming hard with a hoarse shout, Sören coming seconds later at the feel of the contractions around his cock, the sight of his beloved in ecstasy.

Anthony lay in Sören's arms, on his chest, Sören cradling him, petting him. They drifted a bit, and then Anthony roused him before he could completely doze off, kissing him, and Sören's cock responded, Sören smiling as he felt Anthony hard against him once more.

This time Sören took Anthony on his back and he stayed there, looking up at Sören with love and trust in his eyes as Sören fucked him with a leg on his shoulder. Sören had intended to go slower, not wanting to hurt him, but he couldn't help himself, Anthony felt too delicious, and Anthony's deep, primal noises urged him on.

"My big brother is such a beast," Anthony said. "I love it."

"Fuck." Sören shuddered, rocking into him even harder. "Fuck, I fucking want you..."

"Yes, brother." Anthony tugged on one of Sören's nipple rings, knowing how that got him going even more. "Take it like you own it, because you do. I'm as much yours as you are mine."

Sören growled and gave it to him as hard as he could stand it. The slap of Sören's balls competed with their cries and grunts and at last it was too good and Sören couldn't hold back any longer and he looked into Anthony's eyes and rasped, "Come with me."

They came together, taking each other's hands. Sören felt like he was falling, then flying, his spirit soaring, something in him set free. They started crying again, but now they were laughing too, and when Sören snuggled up against Anthony, they rubbed noses and laughed into a deep, sweet kiss, Anthony's arms squeezing him tight.

"Thank you," Anthony whispered, rocking Sören in his arms.

"The pleasure was mine." Sören grinned.

"You're right, because what I experienced... 'pleasure' doesn't do that justice." Anthony flushed pink. "God, what's wrong with us."

"I don't know, but I like it."

They kissed, and then Sören erupted into a gigglefit, not able to resist the urge to get in one last shot before they fell asleep.

"What?" Anthony raised an eyebrow.

"It's maybe no surprise I'm one for violating taboos considering, you know." Sören giggled. "George."

"Oh, my god." Anthony facepalmed, shaking with silent laughter.

"I can't even imagine what your colleagues would say if they saw what went down this morning."

"Neither can I." Now Anthony's laughter was less silent. "I still can't believe... that... Tribble... comment."

"Well, it's a real concern! We can't have London flooded by wigs."

"God, Sören..."

"That said, I still feel bad about George being trapped in the closet when he's not at court with you." Sören grinned. "Might have to do something about that."

"Might?" Anthony glared, though his eyes were smiling. "Sören, you better behave."

"Or what? You gonna... try me?" Sören snorted. "I think you already did that, just now."

Anthony started tickling him. Sören screamed and flailed, as Anthony delighted in the new information that Sören was exceedingly ticklish. When he finally stopped, he pulled Sören back in his arms and pet him and said, "We need to get some sleep, you have an early start tomorrow."

"Oh, all right."

Anthony's lips quirked. "Funny how I'm the little brother and still the responsible adult here..."

"Hi The Little Brother And Still The Responsible Adult Here -"

Anthony swatted Sören's ass. He got up to turn off the lights, and then he and Sören tangled up together again. "Good night, my love."

"Good night, Anthony." A pause. "Good night, George."


_


Sören is in a body not his own. Taller, stronger, with a flood of black hair to his knees, straight rather than curly. His hands are calloused, scarred, and seem to be permanently stained with soot and ink.

Sören is at their father's house - where he goes only rarely these days - for his younger brother Anthony's coming of age. Reluctantly, since Anthony had idolized him and clung when he was a boy, then became distant as he grew older. And the distance was returned - if his brother had no love for him, then he would have no love for his brother.

And yet, the void, the ache, knowing it should not be this way, to be so detached from his blood. Wanting to reach out, but Sören's pride got in the way, not wanting to be rebuffed the way their father rebuffed him.

What was merely sorrow at the distance now becomes pure anger when he sees his brother for the first time in years.

Anthony is also in a body not his own, with hair that can only be described as silver-gold, also to his knees. Eyes grey, different face, and yet... still him, still feels like him, and has similar body language and facial expressions, a commanding baritone.

He is all grown up now, absolutely gorgeous. Sören's wife could not sculpt something more exquisite than he, and Sören can't stop looking at him, feeling a surge of anger at the lust his brother provokes in him. How dare he.

Anthony notices him noticing, and, all cool disdain, every part the son-of-the-king their father has trained him to be, he finally says when they have a moment alone, "Finally you acknowledge I exist."

Sören snorts. "I could say the same about you, brother."

"Oh, believe me, I can do nothing but acknowledge you exist." Before Sören can ask about that cryptic statement, Anthony goes on, "But you... you never cared before now."

I did care, and you pulled away from me. He answers that challenge with pride, a bluff, a sting. "Of course I wouldn't. You are not like me, like our other brother - you have no fire in you."

Anthony's eyes flare, and then he walks off.

The distance returns at the evening meal. Sören retires to his bed, cursing that he cannot take their other brother into his bed here, under their father's roof. He is frustrated and needs to unleash. He manages to find sleep.

But then he is woken up in the middle of the night by another presence in his bed. He smiles, feeling proud that his other brother wants him badly enough to risk it, and he moans at the frantic kisses raining over him, arching to his lover. "Yes, darling..."

It is Anthony. He grabs Sören and kisses him as fiercely as Sören has ever been kissed, and then, his fingers in Sören's mouth so he can't cry out too loudly, he bites Sören's neck. He is rock hard, and naked, his skin feverish. He rips Sören's nightclothes from him, and bites Sören's throat. Sören gasps, cock leaping, and clutches at him, almost terrified of how badly he wants this, how badly he needs this. "Yes..."

"I will show you fire, brother," Anthony promises. "We will scorch the earth, tonight." He claims Sören's mouth again, and oiled fingers push into him.

That night, they burn.

Chapter Text

Earlier in January, Sören had requested the weekend of February fourth and fifth off, since Anthony's birthday was coming up on February fourth. To compensate for having the weekend off, Sören was working longer shifts during the week, and by the time he got home late Monday night, feeling useless laying on the couch as Anthony heated up food for him in the kitchen, Sören realized he wasn't going to have a lot of time to go shopping for Anthony's birthday present, and didn't have a clue about what to get the man who had everything.

"Anthony?" Sören called, as Anthony was putting together a plate for him.

"Yes?"

"What do you want for your birthday?"

Anthony shrugged. "Hadn't thought about it." He smiled. "Surprise me."

Sören bit back a groan. That wasn't helpful - specifics would have been helpful if Anthony wanted anything at all. And when Anthony brought dinner out to him, and sat next to Sören on the couch, even though Anthony looked dead on his feet and needed to go to bed soon himself - he'd stayed up to see Sören and take care of him - Sören had to say something. "Elskan, seriously. I have no idea what to get you and very limited time to get it in."

"I know." Anthony frowned. "Honestly, it's enough that you're taking that weekend off to spend with me. I want you more than I want things."

"But you like things." Sören gestured around at the flat, and even the expensive silk pajamas Anthony was wearing. "I don't want to disappoint you."

"You're not a disappointment to me, and I don't want you stressing out about it." Anthony gave him a little kiss.

On Tuesday morning, Anthony had court - a couple of small cases, and one big, important one. He wore the robe out the door, but he paused to put on the wig when a sleepy Sören put up a fuss about it. Sören giggled, doubling over. "I needed that. Perfect way to start my day."

"Brat," Anthony said, but his eyes crinkled at the corners and Sören could tell he was amused rather than offended.

On his break at work on Tuesday late afternoon, Sören found himself pulling out his sketchpad and doodling. He drew a cartoon of Anthony sitting at his desk in his office, wearing the robe and wig as he reviewed case files before court, and he made a little speech balloon with a heart and exclamation point in it above George atop Anthony's head, and then drew several tiny wigs on his desk, the tails of the wigs waggling as they played with pens and pencils and paperclips like they were cat toys, and the desk was surrounded by a pile of regular-sized wigs that had multiplied out of control. Anthony had a disgruntled look on his face in the cartoon, and as a finishing touch Sören made one of the baby wigs tug on a tail of the collar of the white shirt he wore under his black robe, as if to say "play with me!" Sören also wrote the word PURRRRRRRRRRR various places over the wig-pile surrounding the desk, and a PURRRRRRRR over George's head.

Anthony was getting home later than usual - he was going out after work with a few of his colleagues since today's big court case was particularly difficult - and Sören took the Tube home. He needed to crash and take a nap as soon as he got in, and he left the doodle of Anthony, George, and the wig-Tribbles on the kitchen counter for Anthony to see when he got home, expecting to still be sleeping. Sören went to sleep shirtless in pajama bottoms.

Sören was woken up by the feeling of something hairy crawling up his chest, and Sören leapt awake with a gasp just as the wig slid up his sternum and tickled his nose.

"Prrrp?" The wig headbutted him like a friendly cat.

Sören facepalmed and let out a howl, shaking, wheezing with laughter, tearing up. "Jesus Christ, Anthony..."

Anthony was kneeling on the floor by the side of the bed - he'd attempted to duck so Sören wouldn't see him, only the wig, but there he was. His own face was red, his eyes twinkling with mischief. Laughing, flashing Sören that smile that made him all aflutter, Anthony leaned in to steal a kiss.

"I brought home takeaway for you," Anthony said as Sören sat up.

"Oh, takk." Sören put his arms around Anthony and kissed his brow.

Sören followed Anthony out to the living room. Anthony seemed to sense intuitively that Sören was in the mood for fish and chips, and Sören said "Perfect," as he sat down, and then, "Or should that be purrrrrrrrrrrrrr-fect."

"That Icelandic accent of yours could give Eartha Kitt herself a run for her money," Anthony said. "I'm going to get changed, I'll be back in a moment."

A few minutes later Anthony came down in his pajamas and put on tea. He once again picked up the doodle Sören left for him on the kitchen counter and laughed, needing to lean on the counter with how hard he was laughing.

"I'm glad you don't hate it," Sören said.

"Sören, I love it. This was an early birthday present, right?"

"Actually, I just did it because I felt like it while I was on break."

"Well, I'm claiming this as my birthday gift. Although, if you're truly hung up on buying me something..." Anthony tapped the paper. "I want a frame for it. I'm going to put it on my desk."

"Are you fucking serious."

"Very." Anthony gave him a soft smile. "It'll remind me of you, and that'll help me stay sane during the day."

"I take it court was bad today?"

"Dear god." Anthony made a noise. "I won, but it was very ugly. I almost feel sorry for the poor sod from Crown Prosecution that I faced. Almost. I definitely needed to go out after work. Besides which, it's been awhile."

When tea was ready, Anthony brought it over and sat next to Sören. "They were asking about you."

"They as in..."

"My friends. I used to go out to the pub with them at least once a week or so before you and I started dating, and I've been missing in action. With our schedules being what they are, I can't go back to once a week, but at least once or twice a month, they'd like to see me again. And, well... you could come with me."

"So these people know you're gay..."

"Yes. It's like I told you - I don't advertise but I'm not in the closet either. However, most of this lot has known me since my diploma conversion, so they know me well enough to know. And I mentioned you, besides." Anthony leaned in to give Sören a kiss. "They invited me out for my birthday on Saturday night. You have also been invited."

Sören tried to not register disappointment. His demanding schedule as a neurosurgeon meant he didn't socialize much, but even if he wasn't so busy, he was a shy introvert and felt socially awkward at the best of times. He'd been bullied by his peers as a child and a teenager, and had never really gotten over it, choosing to keep to himself when he went to university. One of the few times when he'd managed to break past his reserve was a night when he went to a bar in Reykjavik to unwind and listen to music, and had encountered a pretty English girl that he felt a connection with right away. Of course she'd never used the contact info she'd given him, and her own phone was disconnected not long after the encounter which led Sören to believe that connection had been strictly one-sided and he probably creeped her out. Sören knew that he couldn't realistically expect Anthony to be a hermit like he was, especially when Anthony's job was so people-oriented, but he'd been hoping to either have a quiet, romantic evening at home or perhaps go out dancing again. The idea of being around a group of lawyers in a pub on a Saturday night made him want to run away screaming and it hadn't even started yet.

But for Anthony, he would. This was Anthony's birthday, and Sören wanted to make him happy. It wasn't like they were going to do this all the time, just once in awhile.

After Sören ate, they cuddled together on the couch, drinking tea, just quietly being together, resting after what was a long, stressful day for both of them. Anthony finally broke the silence with, "You feel nice."

"You feel nice, too." Sören chuckled. "I can't believe you like that picture enough to frame it and put it on your desk."

"I do." Anthony reached for his hand. "Coming back to that was..." He sighed. "I needed it." He tilted Sören's face to his. "I need you." They kissed.

When they finished their tea, Anthony got up, took Sören's hand, pulled him up, and led him to the bedroom. They made slow, sweet love together, kissing as cock rubbed against cock, cocks gliding together to climax, then for the encore they lay on their sides and sucked and rimmed each other to a second, powerful orgasm.

As they lay there in the afterglow, holding each other, legs entwined, snow falling outside, Sören watched Anthony resting and his fingers lovingly traced the chiseled features. He'd doodled Anthony but now he wanted to sketch him. He wanted to do a proper portrait. Anthony had liked the doodle enough to claim it as his birthday gift, and Sören felt that if that were so, Anthony should have real art for his birthday. And if he wasn't so worn out from the day he'd had, he'd paint - he'd found over the years that sex made him feel creative, and when he was doing more art he was also hornier; one fed the other. But it was such a pain to get set up with the oils.

Sören heard himself making a noise. Anthony's eyes fluttered open. "You OK?" Anthony mumbled, snuggling closer to him.

"Jæja, it's just..." Sören sighed.

Anthony raised an eyebrow. "Out with it," he said, more awake this time.

"I just... once again... really hate that I can't paint anymore because of what a pain in the arse it is to get set up, and how endlessly fucking tired I am. I either need less hours - which isn't happening, as a junior surgeon - or I need some other medium."

Anthony lay there awake, and even though his expression was completely neutral, Sören knew by now that look in his eye meant the gears in his head were turning. After a couple minutes Anthony said, "If you had something like a computer tablet with a stylus that you could use as a pen and a brush, and it wasn't terrible to learn how to use the different features, blend colors..."

"That would be ideal, but I hear those things are an arm and a leg - for the good ones, anyway - and I never have time to go shopping even for really basic shit, never mind taking hours to compare the different kinds of tablets."

Anthony nodded and patted Sören's shoulder. "I'm sorry. It was a thought."

"It was a thought."

Anthony kissed Sören's cheek. "We should get some rest now, love."

"OK." Sören kissed him back and his arms tightened around Anthony. "Good night, Anthony." He snickered. "Good night, George."


_


On his break on Wednesday Sören took off to a department store where he found a suitable frame for Anthony's picture, and on impulse he bought himself several pairs of sexy thong underwear in assorted colors - some silky, some lacy - remembering Anthony telling him that he would like to see Sören in that type of underwear, so breaking out a pair for Anthony's impending birthday seemed ideal.

Before he left the department store he visited the electronics section just to have a look at the tablets, and boggled at the price tags. He made a decent income as a neurosurgeon but he wasn't rich by any means and his thrifty upbringing meant he had a hard time justifying spending a hundred quid on something for himself, let alone the prices these tablets were going for. Back at the hospital he put his shopping bag in one of the small lockers reserved for staff use, and when he scrubbed back in Colin said, "You look like you've been in a war zone."

"Jæja, I went shopping for my boyfriend's birthday."

"Oh." Colin laughed. "Diana has no idea what to get him."

"That seems to be a common affliction." Sören couldn't believe he was disclosing something this personal, but he opened up and said, "I made him a little cartoon and he wants to frame it, and I want to be able to make him proper art, you know, a painting..."

"Ah. I'd seen you draw on break before but I didn't realize it was a thing."

Sören nodded. "Art is almost as strong a calling as medicine. It's a real passion of mine. Just sucks that I have such limited time for it. Anthony suggested getting one of those tablets but the cheapest good one is like six hundred quid. That's fucking crazy."

"Ouch, yeah, that's a bit steep." Colin snickered. "Maybe ask Anthony to buy you one?"

"Dear god, I can't ask for something like that!"

"Why not?"

"He's my partner. I'm not... bloody... using him for his money."

Then Sören's cell phone went off. He was going to ignore it because he was at work, but it was a text notification and he had a feeling as to who this was from; it might be important. He checked his cell and saw Anthony's number.

Day is running overtime and I'll be home a little late, am taking a detour to pick up takeaway. Let me know if you're in the mood for anything.

Sören couldn't resist. Oh, there's something I'm in the mood for, all right.

Anthony shot back a few minutes later: Ha ha, I mean to eat.

And then Anthony sent seconds later: I mean food.

Sören's laughter rang out. Indian? Curry?

OK! Love you.

Sören washed his hands again after handling his cell phone. Even though it bore the news that Anthony would be late, just seeing a text from him brightened Sören's spirits and he had a little bounce in his step as he went in to see his next patient.

Sören didn't nap when he got home, but waited up for Anthony, and when he heard Anthony arriving he got up and opened the door. Anthony gave him a kiss, and when Sören took the takeaway bag out of his hand he saw Anthony had a shopping bag in the other. Sören gave him a suspicious look; Anthony kept a poker face but his eyes were mischievous.

They ate together on the couch, and Sören's eyes kept wandering to the shopping bag sitting on the kitchen counter. "What's that?" he asked. "Early birthday gift from the office?"

Anthony chuckled. "Hardly." He patted Sören. "You'll see."

When they were finished eating, Anthony brought the shopping bag over to Sören. "For you," he said and thrust it at him.

Sören had no idea what was in it - he wondered if Anthony had been thinking about Sören in sexy underwear too and now Sören would have even more sexy underwear in his collection - and he reached inside and pulled out a brand-new-in-box WaCom tablet. Sören began shrieking.

"YOU SNEAKY BASTARD!" Sören shouted as Anthony laughed. Sören screamed again. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA..."

Anthony grinned at him.

"Ég get ekki fokking trúa því... þú ert mér of góður... Ég elska þig svo mikið, þetta er of mikið, fallegi bastardinn þinn!" Sören teared up.

Anthony pulled him into a kiss, and then he kissed the tears that flowed. "I wanted to give you a way to do something important to you."

"Anthony." Sören stroked Anthony's cheek. "I... I wasn't expecting this. When you brought it up late last night and I commented on how expensive these are, I wasn't fishing, wasn't trying to get you to buy me one..."

"I know." Anthony patted him. "I did this because I want to. I like spoiling you."

"Já, I... I got that. I just don't want you to think I'm after you for your money..."

Anthony gave him a stern look. "Sören. I have never once thought that. That said, if there's something you need or want, I don't mind you asking me. I want to take care of you."

"I don't need or want a sugar daddy," Sören said, shaking his head. "I like being with another professional because you understand the hours, the craziness, but your worth to me as a partner is independent of your income. This is what matters to me." He put his hand on Anthony's heart. And then, needing a moment of levity, his hand slid lower, to the bulge in Anthony's trousers. "And this."

Anthony stole another kiss. "I know. I still want to do nice things for you. It's... it's a love language for me, I suppose. You haven't had much..."

You don't know the half of it. Sören still hadn't gotten into the full horror story of his younger years, though he knew Anthony was observant enough to pick up on things unsaid.

"...and something like this," Anthony gestured to the tablet. "What I've seen of your art, you have a gift that shouldn't go neglected. It broke my heart over the weekend to see you so frustrated at being too exhausted to paint. This isn't quite the same as oil painting but it's something."

"Oh, it's definitely something. I've seen what people can do with a tablet over on deviantART and it's impressive. I just don't want you to feel used, or like you have to buy my love..."

Anthony took Sören's hands and kissed them. "I don't."

"And I don't know what you're in the habit of telling your friends, but please don't tell them you dropped money on this for me. I don't want them to think I'm some kind of whore."

"Oh my god, Sören. You're a doctor, I assure you they won't think that."

And if I wasn't a doctor? But Sören didn't voice the question. And Anthony didn't give him much more opportunity to sit and fret about the cost, because now Anthony was pulling Sören along to the bedroom. "I've missed you," Anthony husked between kisses.

"God, I've missed you too." Sören began undoing Anthony's tie, smiling that as always he was wearing the tie Sören bought him for Christmas. "I love you, you know."

"I know." Anthony kissed him hard.

When they were naked in bed, kissing, hands roaming, Anthony paused between kisses, looked into Sören's eyes, and said, "My big brother takes care of everyone else all the time. You should let little brother take care of you sometimes."

Sören's cock leapt at that and he kissed Anthony hard. Anthony rolled onto his back, pulling Sören atop him, and spread his thighs, knees up, looking at Sören expectantly. Sören kissed him hungrily as he readied him, and when Sören was all the way inside Anthony husked, "That's it, big brother. Let little brother make you feel better after a long day."

Sören groaned and gave in to his animal side right away, fucking hard. Anthony loved it, clawing Sören's back, biting him, growling, panting and gasping as he bucked underneath. Sören brought him off hard and fast and then gave into a blinding climax of his own, hearing himself cry out "Bróðir minn, bróðir minn, litli bróðir, litli bróðir..." as he spent, Anthony responding with a deep groan and a shudder, shooting again over Sören's flesh.

Then Sören slipped out, and after kissing and petting for a few minutes their hands were groping again, cocks waking up once more, and Sören straddled Anthony's hips and rode him. Anthony fucked Sören just as hard as he'd been fucked, Sören grabbing onto the headboard to hang on as he rode Anthony like a wild bull. "Oh god. Ohgodohgodohgod Anthony, fuck me," Sören cried out, bouncing furiously. "Fuck me brother, FUCK ME..."

They came together, screaming, and when Sören collapsed into Anthony's arms he cried, overcome by the intimacy of their crossing-the-line game, that secret need in both of them, and the way Anthony loved him, wanted to be sweet to him after a lifetime of being ignored and neglected at best, abused at worst. They loved each other without guile, they trusted each other, they were each other's refuge from the crazy world, and Sören felt safe with him... safe enough to rest, safe enough to let his mind wander and for the first time in too long, try to explore and express himself.

Anthony fell asleep soon after sex, and normally Sören would be right there with him, but he kept thinking about the WaCom tablet in the other room. Like a kid wanting to inspect what Santa left under the tree before the grownups got up on Christmas morning, Sören went down the hall to the living room, opened up the box, took out the tablet, and began reading the instructions.

The only way to make sure he understood everything, of course, was to try it. He brought the tablet back down the hall to the bedroom and turned on the small lamp on his side of the bed - he found from past experience that both he and Anthony could sleep through the other's lamp being on, on one of those sleepless nights when Anthony was working on a case like he was preparing to go off to war, or where Sören couldn't shut off his mind and made himself read till he passed out. Anthony lay against him as Sören began to fiddle with the tablet, testing the stylus by doodling dickbutts, then testing the painting features, browsing the huge palette of colors, working on blending and shading, and other techniques.

Sören was going to be working an overnight shift Thursday night into Friday afternoon, so being up late tonight wasn't the issue it normally would be, but even if that wasn't the case Sören found himself too entranced to stop.

He wanted to make something for Anthony for his birthday - not that he minded Anthony claiming the doodle as his birthday gift, but if he had silly art on his desk, Sören thought he should have something serious in his office to balance it out. The question was what. Sören looked at Anthony sleeping next to him and once again was tempted to do a portrait of him, but a portrait of Anthony sleeping didn't seem right for his office. Sören stroked his beard, considering. It had to be another subject entirely... something that spoke of Anthony's watchful, carefully observant nature, a willingness to look at the other side of a story. But what?

A random thought bubbled to the surface, from when they were newly dating. Sören's own observation about Anthony: You want the world to think you're a Slytherin, but you're actually a Ravenclaw.

That was it. A raven. Or, since Sören wanted this to be big enough for Anthony to hang on a wall, ravens plural.

Sören thought about Anthony mentioning his interest in ancient history, archaeology, a field he likely would have gone into if not law. A lightbulb went off in Sören's head - just as Anthony seemed tickled by learning about Icelandic Christmas folklore, he might also appreciate a nod to Norse mythology. Sören had always regarded Odin with some wariness, not liking the idea of a god who stirred up strife for its own sake, who demanded such bloody sacrifices for his worship. But his ravens, Huginn and Muninn - Thought and Memory, who traveled the Nine Worlds and reported their happenings back to Odin - that, Sören found interesting. Those are some cool-ass birds. And with the iridescence in raven feathers, it would be the perfect way to try out "painting" on the new tablet.

So it was that Sören stayed up the next couple of hours, sketching two ravens flying, making sure he got lots of detail. One of the only things he disliked about the tablet was its small size compared to a canvas, but he could also zoom in, and thus create large files that could be made into large prints. And he found he had more control with the stylus on the screen, than he did with trying to draw with paints on a canvas. He zoomed in and in and in to put in the tiniest details, and then back out to look at what he had so far. The ravens became incredibly lifelike, enough that it felt like they were watching him through the screen.

Before Sören went to sleep for the night, he got a little bit of coloring done on one of the ravens. Only a small part of the body, and not as much shading and blending that even that small part would have, but it was a start. And enough of one that Sören could see the vision in his mind's eye - Huginn and Muninn, rainbow-black feathers, flying into a sunrise.


_


Sören is not a morning person in any world, in any incarnation. Nonetheless, he stirs when he feels the magic approaching, the touch of Anthony's energy being carried out to him. He quickly gets dressed and goes outside, waiting.

The white raven descends with a scroll in its beak. It waits as Sören breaks the seal on the scroll and reads Anthony's request for Sören to come visit, with a parchment attached for Sören to write a response and send it back via the raven. He does, letting Anthony know he will be on his way soon.

Anthony has moved out of their father's palace and has an estate of his own now, by the sea. It is both like the palace they grew up in, with its great halls and marble columns, and yet also unlike, with its walled garden full of exotic plants that Anthony is studying, and a menagerie of birds - especially the white ravens who serve as his trained messengers. And there are books upon books upon books, some of which Anthony has written himself - poetry, histories, even as a young man, has a reputation for being well-learned, well-spoken, wise.

Some of that poetry Sören recognizes - love poetry that was written for him, and has since been glossed, that everyone assumes is for the wife he took, the sexless marriage when Anthony prefers men and the fair lady prefers women. They cannot be open about even that, let alone the sin behind closed doors... the sin that Sören hungers for as soon as he lays eyes on his brother, the hunger he can feel in his brother as well, sparking between them even as Anthony remains cool and distant while prying eyes are around.

The moment they are truly alone, they waste no time. Sören cries out as Anthony handles him roughly, the facade of the aloof, "wilting flower" scholar gone and replaced with a fire that burns as bright as his hair, like the light of a thousand suns. Anthony takes him hard and Sören claws him, begs for more, Anthony delighting in his fierce, proud brother begging him, desperate and needy.

And then, there is the tenderness. Sören and their other brother pretend to be enemies to keep up appearances, but sometimes it is hard to remember it is pretense. Already, Sören and his wife grow apart. There is no strife here, no neglect, only sweetness, Anthony as gentle as he was savage. This isn't just a social call, isn't just family visiting family for the sake of "the family business", but Sören was sent here because Anthony knew he needed rest, he could feel the distress through their bond over leagues. When Sören is angry, or bothered, emotions eating him alive like a star about to go nova, he usually withdraws into the heat of the forge to fight fire with fire... but now there is the cool ocean breeze, the scent of flowers, the play of birds, strong arms holding him, sensitive hands stroking him, and a glorious flood of silver-gold hair being wrapped around him like a blanket of light.

"Let me take care of you, elder brother."

In that silken blanket of light, Sören's inner darkness fades, at least for a little while.

_

Sören was still sleeping when Anthony had to go to work the next morning; Sören stirred with the alarm, grumbling, and he stopped grumbling as Anthony rained kisses over his face. Sören woke up hours later to a handwritten note on top of the tablet:

It's so cute that you couldn't wait to use the tablet, staying up playing with it like a big kid. It's also weirdly hot, to see you so enthusiastic about something. I'm going to miss you tonight while you're at work, but I'll come visit you on your break. (And I might have to take you in the supply closet.)

Sören giggled. "Incorrigible." Not that he could talk.

He kissed the note and tucked it safely into the hollow book where he kept other mementos. He had some time to kill before work, so he resumed working on the painting. He didn't like to rush things but on the other hand this was simple enough - while still complex in the detail of the birds, the shading of the feathers, and the shading of the sunrise - that he felt he had a reasonable chance of finishing by Friday night or Saturday morning, at which point he'd take the file to a print shop, get a high-quality print and a nice frame.

Sören felt more motivated to do art than he had in a long time. It wasn't just for Anthony, he knew, but for himself - he felt a small sense of victory and accomplishment, that he was "back in the saddle" again, riding the wave of inspiration as it came rather than sitting it out yet again because he was too tired.

Sören thought about taking the tablet with him to work to continue the ravens-and-sunrise on his break, but with warning that Anthony was coming for said break he didn't want to be neglectful. Sören's break was before Anthony had to go to chambers, and Anthony looked dead tired that Friday morning but also happy to see Sören, and Sören was as always touched that Anthony was starting earlier than usual to see him. Anthony had coffee for them both, and they chatted about what they could discuss of the current goings-on in their respective jobs without breaking confidentiality.

Anthony didn't take him in the supply closet but led him out to the Audi so they could sit and cuddle, which turned into a makeout session, which turned into them getting in the back of Anthony's car, giggling like a couple of horny teenagers up to mischief, and they sixty-nined. Just as Sören was hanging on that edge of climax, he took Anthony's cock out of his mouth, gave it a few teasing licks, and husked, "I'm starving for a taste of my brother."

That set them both off, Sören coming so hard it almost hurt, and when they finished they leaned on each other in the back seat, Sören laughing with giddy post-orgasmic euphoria but also amusement at how shameless they were in their need for each other. Sören's laughter became tears when he was reluctant to go back, and part with Anthony till later - he'd missed Anthony so much last night, the missing him even worse at the ache he could see in Anthony's own eyes, and knowing Anthony hadn't slept well, again, without him there in bed.

Sören got home before Anthony did in the late afternoon. On the Tube ride back, on impulse he called Anthony's mother Elaine to ask, "What kind of cake does your son like? What's his favorite?" And then Sören took a detour at the grocery store to pick up ingredients to bake a lemon cake.

While the cake was in the oven, and dinner in the slow cooker, Sören worked on the ravens-and-sunrise, continuing to be enchanted by the way it was coming together, watching the magic unfold. He thought about the dream of the white raven, and he wondered about it - that dream had felt so real, much more vivid and intense than his dreams usually felt, like he was awake and living it. And it seemed odd for his brain to regurgitate thinking about ravens, and roleplaying being brothers during sex, in such a manner - he'd had dreams referencing things on his mind, and this wasn't quite it.

I've been working a lot of hours, I'm dead on my feet constantly, I probably am having more intense dreams because I'm so damn tired.

It felt like the ravens were watching him again, and in his mind's eye Sören saw a vague flicker of the Sydney Opera House, which made no sense to him.

Definitely way too fucking tired for life.

Sören frosted the lemon cake when it cooled, and then he wrapped it and put it in the fridge, even though he knew it wasn't that much of a disguise and Anthony would be able to tell that was a birthday cake in there.

Sören wouldn't be done with the painting tonight before Anthony got home, but he would be done tomorrow morning if he got up early, and he was sure Anthony would excuse him for an hour or two on Saturday morning if he said he had to get a frame for the picture... which wasn't a lie, it was just a different picture.

Anthony came home in a bad mood, having had a difficult day, but he quickly recovered when Sören drew them a bubble bath - it was comical for the two tall men to fit in the bathtub, a bit of a tight squeeze, but that also meant cuddling. And he recovered even more when Sören took him to bed, gave him a massage, and then rode him.

They took a nap after sex, and then later the timer went off in the kitchen and dinner came out of the slow cooker, the lamb stew that Anthony liked. Anthony continued to relax as he put his feet up and got some food in his system - Sören was concerned to hear that he hadn't eaten much all day due to nerves.

"Are you sure you want to go out tomorrow night?" Sören pursed his lips.

Anthony nodded. "I'm kind of obligated to."

"No, you're not. You're not anyone's slave."

Anthony sighed. "I don't expect you to understand. Yes, I'll be fine to go out tomorrow." He gave Sören a little kiss. "You don't have to worry about me."

"I worry about you anyway, because I love you. By the way, tomorrow morning I have to go out for a bit. I, ah... need to get you a frame."

"OK. I might sleep in, in that case. I'm entitled."

"Yes, you are. Live a little."

In the morning as Anthony slept, Sören made two high-quality prints of the ravens-and-sunrise at the print shop - one large print for Anthony's office, one portfolio-sized, since Sören wanted to start keeping a binder of his finished work. And Sören realized, pacing around the print shop, that at least some of this trip was to burn off his nervous energy about meeting Anthony's friends later. He was going into it with low expectations, not assuming that Anthony's friends would automatically become his friends. But nonetheless, he was hoping they didn't get off on the wrong foot.

The print shop had frames, and Sören had the large print put in a frame right there. It was a pain in the ass to lug back on the Tube, but this was what Sören did for love. And when he got back, Anthony was awake, making tea, and his eyes widened as he saw Sören carrying in the large frame. "Sören, what did you do."

Sören showed him.

"Oh my god, Sören, is that for me?" Anthony's eyes widened.

"No, it's for George."

Anthony gave him a filthy look, and then he threw his arms around Sören, rained kisses over his face, visibly touched. "Sören. I don't know what to say. I guess, wow, that's beautiful. It looks so real."

"It's Huginn and Muninn," Sören said, and explained, "Their names mean Thought and Memory. They're from Norse mythology. I thought it was, you know, fitting, considering your line of work, the questions you ask, the observations you make, the way you have to put it all together and convince people it's the truth, it's the way things happened..."

Anthony kissed him hard. "It's not only beautiful work, it's beautifully symbolic, and I love that you put a bit of history into that as well. My god, Sören. Can I hang this in my office? Do you mind?"

"That's exactly what I intended."

Anthony started dragging him off to the bedroom, and Sören giggled, "Wait, there's cake. I went to the trouble of baking you a cake, you need to have some of it."

"We can bring cake into the bloody bedroom. I need you."

Sören laughed at the urgency, though it also sent a frisson down his spine, sent his own cock surging upward with hot, sharp need of his own. He cut two pieces of cake and brought them down to the bedroom where Anthony waited on the bed, propped up on one elbow, stroking himself idly.

Then Anthony got all choked up again. "How did you know lemon is my favorite?"

"Huginn and Muninn told me." Sören couldn't resist the madness. "Well actually they told George, and then George told me..."

Anthony went back and forth between glaring at Sören and laughing, and finally Sören admitted, "I asked your mum."

"Well, that was lovely of you." Anthony's lips quirked. "Not as lovely as eating it off your naked body would be, however."

He proceeded to do just that, eating bits of cake from Sören's chest and stomach, licking the skin clean, making Sören moan and harden even more, and then Anthony fed Sören his piece of cake from his fingers, like Sören was a pet being given a treat. Sören licked and sucked his fingers, and then when the cake was gone, Sören dove down between Anthony's legs and licked at the hard cock ready for him. "I like this better," Sören husked, before taking the cock into his mouth.


_


After making love for the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon, pleasing each other in different positions, they napped together and were woken up by the alarm clock set to give them time to get ready for their outing.

Anthony's friends were meeting him at an upmarket restaurant-and-bar in Kingston, which meant they wouldn't have to go far, could leave their car at home, and could have some drinks. Sören was at a loss as far as what to wear, and Anthony said, "What you wore on our first date is fine. That's what I'll be wearing, too."

Sören smiled that Anthony still remembered that, but then, he knew he shouldn't be surprised that Anthony remembered that.

The only change Sören made to that outfit was breaking in one of the new thongs - black lace. He smiled at the naughtiness of it, and what he intended to give Anthony as his final birthday gift later that evening.

At the restaurant, they were escorted to a larger table in the back. Sören counted five heads, with Anthony making six and Sören making a seventh. "Everyone, this is Sören," Anthony said as they arrived, arm-in-arm. Anthony gestured.

"Sören, this is Jack." A thin, handsome man with short dark brown hair, hazel brown eyes, clean-shaven and wearing a green sweater and expensive Rolex, waved.

"Lawrence." A tall, muscular bald man in a white blazer and black vest, with deep black skin, and an equally deep voice that said, "How do you do."

"Trisha." The one woman in the group, a short blonde bob, blue eyes, thin and model-pretty, wearing a lavender camisole under a royal purple cardigan. Sören took her hand and kissed it, old-school, which made her blush and laugh.

"Vincente." A man with an Italian name who sounded perfectly English when he said, "Nice to meet you," olive-skinned, short hair as curly and dark as Sören's, piercing blue eyes, clean-shaven, square-jawed, wearing black-framed square glasses and a black tie with a burgundy blazer.

"Aaaaaaaaand Steve."

Steve looked like a Steve. He looked like a little shit, with short, somewhat unruly auburn hair, brown eyes, a big cheesy devil-may-care grin and cleft chin. Steve was wearing a black blazer and a bright blue tie, and reached up to try to muss Anthony's hair, which got Anthony smacking his hand away. Steve then pumped Sören's hand vigorously.

"So you're the one who whipped our boy Anthony," Steve quipped.

"Steve, please." Anthony facepalmed as he sat down.

"What? You all but disappeared off the face of the Earth the last month and a half, if we didn't see you at Temple we'd have thought aliens abducted you. Though, I guess an alien of sorts did abduct you. You're from, ah, Finland, right?"

"Iceland," Anthony said before Sören could answer.

"Right. Well, a toast, then." Steve reached for a bottle of champagne that was on the table and poured drinks for everyone. Steve raised his glass and said, "To our birthday boy... and his birthday toy."

Sören didn't know whether to be amused, offended, or both. Anthony looked irritated, but then Steve attempted to deflect the tension by saying, "I'm sorry. We're just all in a state of collective shock that Anthony has settled down."

"But a good shock," Trisha added. "And my god, I didn't know the NHS had such hot doctors! I think I need to get myself into an emergency posthaste."

Sören blushed and Anthony put an arm around Sören's shoulders.

"It's good to have you back, Anthony," Lawrence said, smiling. "I was all alone here as the token Black friend... now we've got the token gay friend again..."

"That's learned token gay friend," Anthony quipped. "Learned."

"I notice you didn't add learned to my bit." Lawrence raised an eyebrow.

"Well no, that would imply you spent time studying during our diploma conversion and I think we all know what you were doing instead."

"Oh please, like you weren't out there chasing tail yourself." Lawrence turned to Sören and said, "Anthony used to be a dog. A gay version of a dog."

"I was not anywhere near as bad as a couple of you," Anthony said. "And there was far less cocaine involved."

Steve almost spat his champagne. "I didn't do that much."

"You did enough. I thought for sure you were going to end up as one of my clients." Anthony rolled his eyes.

"You say 'far less'..." Sören raised his eyebrows.

"I tried it exactly twice. It... wasn't my thing," Anthony said. "And not anywhere near worth its price tag. I like spending my money on better, non-chemical highs."

"Speaking of which," Jack said, "who wants to see my new yacht?"

Anthony looked incredulous. "You bought a yacht."

"I sure did. I've been thinking about it for months, now I'm living the dream."

"The harbors are all frozen, you bought it and what... you're going to sit on it for months?"

Jack shrugged. "Here, look at this with me." Jack pulled out his phone and accessed a photo gallery, and began to pass the phone around.

Sören supposed that a normal person would be impressed, but Sören found himself vaguely annoyed that Jack was introducing himself right off the bat with such an ostentatious display of wealth, which seemed like a very show-off-ish, braggart thing to do. That would have been bad enough on its own, but then Vincente had to share pictures of his new Mercedes, which got Trisha into showing off her new pair of Louboutin shoes right there, Vincente showing that he was also wearing Louboutins, and finally Steve one-upped everyone by saying his grandmother just promised to put him in the will for her vacation home in the Bahamas. "It's gonna be sweet when that old bird goes," Steve said.

Sören tried not to make a face. He glanced over at Anthony, who rolled his eyes at Sören but otherwise said nothing. Sören felt like grabbing Anthony, pulling him aside, and asking him why he didn't yell at Steve for seeming to salivate over the death of a family member, which seemed fairly cold and heartless, but he held off.

One thing was for certain - he didn't like Anthony's friends. And he didn't like the way Anthony seemed vaguely amused by them as they showed off their baubles trying to one-up each other, like they were idiot jesters putting on a performance for him to internally snark at. He didn't get it how Anthony would want to spend his time that way.

Lawrence seemed to be the least obnoxious of the group, as he hadn't shown off his latest expenditure, and gave Steve a little frown as Steve rattled off all the other things his grandmother was willing him. Finally Lawrence spoke up and said, simply, "I wish my gran were still with us."

Anthony nodded, giving Steve a frosty look. "My father's parents died when I was rather young. My mother's father died about a decade ago. Her mother is still with us, thankfully. She's got quite a bit of life in her yet."

"My grandmum was like that too, and then she went quick," Trisha said. Then she smirked. "She was the one who took me on my first trip to Christian Dior, when I was fourteen."

Oh my god, please, who the fuck takes fourteen-year-old kids to Christian Dior. Sören felt ready to vomit.

The food was reasonably good though not the best Sören ever had - he had shrimp, and used cocktail sauce for his fries, as many Icelanders did, which finally got Steve giving him a weird look. "Mate, what are you doing?"

"...Eating?" Sören nibbled a fry.

"You don't put cocktail sauce on chips! That's... that's just wrong!"

"Iceland missed that memo, I guess." Sören dunked his fry again just to prove a point.

"That's not even the strangest thing you lot eat, is it? I heard you eat shark." Trisha gave Anthony a pointed look; Anthony flushed beetroot and Sören wondered what that was about. "And sheep's heads and things."

"Some of us eat that, já, but reports have been greatly exaggerated. It's not something most of us eat every day. I've never had sheep's head." Sören felt his irritation increasing - a lot of non-Icelanders had some very strange concepts about Iceland. On the one hand Iceland was remarkably good at preserving its language and some cultural traditions, on the other hand Iceland was thoroughly modern, to the point where even farmers in rural areas tended to have the Internet; the average Icelander was more likely to have had Domino's Pizza recently than sheep's head. Sören didn't like being treated as some sort of exotic commodity, even as he was usually very proud of being Icelandic and normally liked sharing bits of history and folklore and language.

Anthony stole one of Sören's fries and dipped it in cocktail sauce, as if to show solidarity, and Sören smiled at him; Anthony squeezed his knee under the table as he ate the fry he stole.

"Oh bloody hell, he's corrupted you," Steve said.

"He certainly has." Anthony winked at Sören, and now Sören giggled and blushed.

Well, at least there's that.

After the meal the group went to the bar. Sören noticed that even though Anthony wasn't driving, he still limited his alcohol intake in public, which Sören thought was wise, and followed suit - on Sören's end, in large part because he didn't trust his brain-to-mouth filter under the influence, not to tell Steve and the others they were idiots. It became more apparent in the bar, as the others talked about their recent cases and Anthony listened, that Anthony seemed a bit bored and was sitting in silent judgment to a point, and Sören once again wanted to ask why he was wasting his time with this. But he didn't. He waited for Anthony to take the initiative to get bored enough so they could get home. And waiting for that moment dragged on and on, until finally Sören had enough and he came closer to Anthony and whispered, "Can we go soon?"

Anthony nodded, nipping on his bottle of ale. "Soon," Anthony said sotto voce.

A few minutes later, when Jack was going on about a minor celebrity he currently had as a client and getting a bit catty, and Sören felt even more uncomfortable, he decided to up the ante. "I want my brother to take me home and show me how nasty he can be," Sören whispered.

Anthony cleared his throat loudly and announced, "We're, ah, going to go now. It's getting later..." It wasn't that late, but it was late enough as far as Sören was concerned. "And I have to be at my mum's tomorrow." That wasn't entirely a lie - they were invited to Sunday dinner, and Elaine and Roger would fuss over Anthony for his birthday, but they wouldn't be going till the late afternoon.

The group was all smiles as they bid them farewell. And when Jack said to Sören, "It was great meeting you!" Sören's reflex reaction was Yeah, fuck you.

On the taxi ride back, Anthony made out with Sören, and Sören got into it, but when they got in the flat, Sören said, "Anthony, can I be blunt with you for a minute?"

"Yes, always be honest with me, Sören. I can tell when you're not."

Sören took a deep breath. "Your friends are arseholes."

Anthony nodded. "Yes. Yes they are."

That answer surprised Sören, and he sat down. "Why?"

"Why what? Why are they arseholes, or -"

"No... why do you bother with them?"

"I've known them for a long time," Anthony said. "They may be idiots, but they're my idiots, I guess."

Sören was pretty sure they weren't "his" anything, but he didn't say that aloud. "That one with the dying grandmother? Steve? That was so crass..."

"It was, but what did you expect me to do, go cut-throat on him over my birthday celebration? You don't like me in lawyer mode all the time, do you? We're both lawyers, it would have turned into an argument, and when I'm trying to unwind I pick my battles. Steve is... Steve. Telling him a few things isn't going to change how he is, he's just like that. I know he came off badly tonight, he's not a saint, but he also sees the shit I put up with every day."

Sören looked down. He could tell he'd hit a nerve, and he hadn't meant to make Anthony feel like he was on trial on his own birthday. "Sorry," Sören mumbled.

"Sören, please don't be sorry for speaking your mind. I just hope you understand, these idiots have been a part of my life for awhile, and... they're trying to make you feel welcome too. I think some of it is just culture clash."

Not too much, if even you understood they were being a bit stupid. But Sören decided to drop it, and Anthony, sensing how uncomfortable Sören was, gave him a hug.

"It's only once or twice a month I'd be going out with them," Anthony said. "And I'd still like you to come with me." Anthony's lips quirked. "Someone can share my pain."

Sören still didn't feel like he should waste his time but he knew it was easier said than done to drop longtime friends, even those who seemed to no longer fit where one was at now. He hadn't had many friends in his own life, but he understood how hard it was for professionals to even make friends and that Anthony would have no one apart from him if he let them go, and it would probably make things awkward for him professionally as well - this was a large part of why Sören avoided socializing with Colin Traynor outside of work, much as he liked Colin very much and knew Colin wanted to hang out and they'd probably become good friends, because if for whatever reason that friendshp went pear-shaped or otherwise drifted apart, that was a source of awkwardness where he had to work every day. "Don't shit where you eat", and all of that.

Now Anthony's eyes raked Sören. "You didn't make me leave there early to lecture me about my friends, though, did you."

Sören felt a little defensive that Anthony was calling it a "lecture" - though he supposed on Anthony's end it felt like one. Sören nonetheless wanted to change the mood... they both needed it. Sören gave him a cheeky grin and went to the stereo, where he had readied a certain song on an R&B playlist for this moment.

Sören began to swivel and thrust his hips in time with the music, eyes locked with Anthony's before he turned around and gave Anthony a good look at his leather-trousers-clad ass.

I'm just a bachelor
I'm looking for a partner
Someone who knows how to ride
Without even falling off
Gotta be compatible
Takes me to my limits
Girl when I break you off
I promise that you won't want to get off


Sören took off his shirt and threw it at Anthony, and danced closer to him, but just out of reach. Smiling seductively at the heat in Anthony's eyes, the growing bulge in Anthony's black jeans.

If you're horny, let's do it
Ride it, my pony
My saddle's waiting
Come and jump on it

If you're horny, let's do it
Ride it, my pony
My saddle's waiting
Come and jump on it


Sören began to work on his leather trousers, really putting his hips and ass into it now.

Sitting here flossing
Peeping your steelo
Just once if I have the chance
The things I will do to you
You and your body
Every single portion
Send chills up and down your spine
Juices flowing down your thigh


The leather pants came off and Sören revealed the lacy black thong he was wearing. Anthony's cheeks were pink and he was breathing harder... and definitely hard.

Now Sören came close, grinding up on Anthony's lap, running his hands over Anthony's chest, letting Anthony touch him.

If we're gonna get nasty, baby
First we'll show and tell
Till I reach your ponytail
Lurk all over and through you baby
Until we reach the stream
You'll be on my jockey team


Sören took a few steps back, working his hips some more, swaying, thrusting, teasing out of reach.

If you're horny, let's do it
Ride it, my pony
My saddle's waiting
Come and jump on it


He came back for the big finish, taking Anthony's hand and putting it right on the bulge in his own thong, hands on Anthony's shoulders, leaning in for a kiss.

If you're horny, let's do it
Ride it, my pony
My saddle's waiting
Come and jump on it


Anthony picked Sören up off the floor and carried Sören down the hall to the bedroom, Sören shrieking and giggling. Anthony put Sören down on the bed, undressed as quickly as he could - Sören moaned at the sight of the hard cock set free - and then Anthony got on the bed and took off Sören's lacy black thong with his teeth, growling, making Sören buck against him as his own cock leapt out, going crazy at the look of lust in Anthony's eyes.

Anthony then rolled Sören on top of him, laying on his back, reaching for the lube. "I hope you're ready for a good ride," Anthony said, pushing his fingers into Sören, who began to work his hips again, fucking himself on Anthony's fingers.

"I hope you're ready for me to ride you hard," Sören rasped.

And like that, nothing else mattered. Sören forgot about Anthony's friends, or any tension bristling between them. Anthony Wyatt-Jones ended the first day of the thirty-second year of his life being ridden into the sunset, Sören taking his cock as long as he was willing and able to give it, wanting to give his special, beloved brother a very special birthday. Sören had a record amount of orgasms that night, losing count after five, and he knew it was far from the last one. He was well-used, and it was well worth it, giving himself as the final gift, which Anthony thought was the best one of all.

Chapter Text

Valentine's Day fell on a Tuesday this year; Sören had an overnight shift Monday night into Tuesday afternoon, which gave him the evening uninterrupted. He took a nap when he got home, while Anthony was still at Lincoln's Inn, and then Anthony woke him up by brushing a flower over his face, making Sören smile, leading to Sören giggling as Anthony rained kisses over him. Anthony had brought home a bouquet of stargazer lilies for Sören, who loved it, and promptly put the flowers in Sprite in a vase.

Anthony brought home something else for Sören as well, a small box that was waiting on the coffee table when Sören went to the bathroom and came back out for tea. Anthony sat, hands folded on his chest, watching intently as Sören opened the box. Sören's laughter rang out when he saw what was inside - it was a vibrating buttplug.

It was not simply a vibrating buttplug, but it was one with a remote-controlled vibrator. Anthony wanted to demonstrate, so after Sören lubed up and put it in - it was a tight fit, though not painful - he sat down on the couch and Anthony turned the switch on the tiny remote control, the vibrator starting inside Sören on its lowest setting. Sören moaned as the vibe purred away on his prostate; even on its lowest setting it was still delicious, and Anthony gave him a wicked grin.

Anthony wanted Sören to wear the plug while they went out to dinner, which Sören thought was quite kinky of him - but he liked it. Anthony had reservations for a table for two at an upmarket surf-and-turf. He made a game of turning on the vibe when the waiter came by to take their order, with the vibe quietly purring away inside Sören as he tried to articulate what he wanted from the menu. Then when the waiter came back with their drinks, Anthony turned the vibe up, and Sören bit back a moan. Anthony turned the vibe back down to its lowest setting after a couple minutes, and when the waiter came back with their food, Anthony turned the vibe up again. The predatory look Anthony gave Sören as they ate made Sören ache to be taken right there, and of course the game wasn't over yet. When the waiter came round to ask how everything was, Anthony turned the vibe up to its next setting and Sören struggled to make words - he was very sure at this point the waiter must think he had some kind of speech impediment. Sören ordered fresh fruit for dessert, and when the waiter came back, Anthony turned the vibe as high as it could go, and kept it buzzing away as he fed Sören pieces of fruit.

"Don't you dare come yet," Anthony whispered as he put a strawberry in Sören's mouth.

Sören gave a little whimper in response. The teasing with the vibe at different speeds was so intense Sören could barely stand it, and now he was right on the verge of coming in his pants and Anthony dangled him on that edge of orgasm, dominating him, holding back his release. Sören was rock-hard when they got up from the table - grateful that his coat would hide the erection as they made their way out of the restaurant - and as he walked, the friction of walking combined with the vibration inside him in such a way that Sören almost came, desperately holding back. He was a wreck when they got in the Audi, panting, shaking, whimpering, and begged, "Please."

Anthony laughed at him and turned the vibe down to its lowest setting. Still working inside him, but now more gently than before - teasing and teasing. And as Anthony drove back to the flat in Kingston, Sören felt like screaming, the tension in him building and building, ready to explode, made all the more maddening because Anthony looked so damn hot knowing he was in control here, reveling in the power he had over Sören, enjoying this way too much.

When they got back to the flat Sören couldn't stand it anymore. He began pawing Anthony as soon as they got their coats and shoes off. "Now," Sören begged.

Anthony laughed softly. "What's the rush, darling? I've been teasing you for the last two hours, surely another few minutes won't hurt -"

"RIGHT. FUCKING. NOW." Sören began pushing Anthony back towards the couch. When they were at the edge of the couch, Sören gave Anthony a shove, and then he fell on Anthony's knee, reaching down to undo his belt and trousers, then his own. Anthony reached to pull the plug out of Sören's ass, and slapped it hard. Sören's already-hard cock leapt, precum pooling out of the slit down the shaft, and Sören's breath hitched.

"Well then." Anthony, his own hard cock free now, grabbed Sören's hips and pulled Sören over to straddle him. Sören was already lubed up to wear the plug, and plenty open and ready from the plug having teased him so long. Sören gasped and moaned as Anthony stretched him, filled him, buried to the hilt, and Anthony gave a deep groan of satisfaction when he was all the way inside that almost set Sören off to climax.

Sören began to ride slowly - everything was so intense, after all that teasing. But Anthony was having none of that. "If you're so impatient and desperate for it," Anthony rasped, "then it's time you got what you wanted." He grabbed Sören's hips again and began to fuck him hard, with Sören grabbing onto his shoulders as he bounced away, screaming with pleasure as Anthony's cock found that exquisite rhythm inside him, rubbing just the right way, stoking Sören's fire hotter and hotter, now blazing out of control. And as much as Sören loved the sight of his man naked, there was something appealing about them being mostly fully clothed still, so hungry for it that they didn't even bother to get past freeing the parts that fit together, and Anthony still in his suit and tie just added to that feeling of being dominated, commanded. Sören loved it, utterly lost in the wild ride, so badly needing to come and yet so badly needing to be fucked like this, claimed, taken.

Sören's screams became broken cries, and then little whimpers, gasping for breath, his entire body quivering. Sören tried to beg "please", and it came out as a little whine. Anthony laughed, took Sören's hand and kissed it, and then held it.

"You are so beautiful right now," Anthony husked.

Sören crinkled his nose and bit his lower lip, heat flooding his cheeks. He wanted to smile, but he was too far gone, a shuddering sharp exhale pushing out of him as the throbbing, teasing pleasure intensified, his need intensified. He let out a moan. Anthony could see how much precum Sören's cock was leaking, and he collected some of it on his fingers to taste - further driving Sören mad with lust - then he anointed his fingers again and stuck them in Sören's mouth for him to suck. With Anthony's fingers in Sören's mouth, and Anthony's other hand now playing with Sören's cock, he looked into Sören's eyes and commanded, "Come."

Sören finally let go. The teasing and the hard fucking paid off into an explosive, shattering orgasm, Sören howling around the fingers in his mouth then giving a louder shout when his mouth was freed. He spent and spent and spent, his cum making a mess all over Anthony's dark navy suit and matching waistcoat. Anthony moaned and sighed as he came too - Sören smiled and made a purring noise as he felt the rush inside him, felt Anthony shaking underneath him - and then Anthony laughed as he saw Sören's cock continue to shoot. Sören laughed now too, hard enough that he started snorting, which made Anthony laugh even harder. When Sören collapsed on top of him, Anthony threw his arms around him and gave him a little kiss, grinning.

"I'm sorry," Sören wheezed.

"Hi Sorry."

Sören gave him a mock glare; Anthony grinned again and tweaked Sören's nose before kissing the tip of Sören's nose. "Don't be sorry," Anthony said. "I would have to send it for dry cleaning anyway, and... besides, it was worth it."

They snuggled on the couch for a bit, until they were recovered sufficiently to pull themselves off. They got undressed - Anthony started laughing again at the mess Sören made on his suit - and then Anthony said, "Here, now that we've both taken the edge off, I can spoil you properly."

With that, Anthony drew them a bubble bath, and they cuddled in the heat and bubbles by candlelight, drinking champagne in the tub. Sören would never stop being amused by the tub being a tight fit with two tall men in there, nonetheless, it was nice and relaxing, and they had a bit of fun splashing each other. Sören also used his thumb and forefinger as a bubble wand, blowing bubbles at Anthony across the tub, laughing hysterically when one landed on his nose.

"Oh, if the court could see you now," Sören said.

"Oh god." Anthony rolled his eyes, shaking with silent laughter. "That would rather destroy my reputation."

"It would be even worse if you were wearing George in here." Sören snickered. "He needs a bath."

"I explained to you why he looks all ragged." Anthony then caught himself, facepalming. "I just referred to that wig as a he. Sören, what have you done to me."

"Have you asked him if he wants to be all grungy-looking like that, or if he'd rather have a bath?" Sören couldn't resist teasing him. "I mean, shouldn't George get a say in his appearance?"

Anthony glared, but his eyes crinkled at the corners. "Sören Sigurdsson, I swear to god."

"Which god? The god of wigs? Jesus? Thor?" Then Sören quipped, "Wow, I appear to have invented a new deity here. The god of wigs, Jesus-Thor..."

Anthony splashed him. Sören splashed him back, then he pretended to start to get out of the tub. "I'm going to get George and see if he wants to take a bath with us -"

Anthony shoved him back and started tickling him. Sören giggled and shrieked helplessly, kicking around, until Anthony moved in such a way that Sören decided to see if he was ticklish as well, getting him underarm, and sure enough he was. They tickled each other mercilessly until Sören was making inhuman snorts that made Anthony tear up and double over at the sound of them.

"Now if your patients could hear that..." Anthony chuckled. "Great thing to wake up to out of surgery, that noise. They'd think they were waking up in one of the levels of Hell..."

"Jæja, fuck you." Sören giggled and splashed him again.

When they decided they'd had enough of the tub, Anthony and Sören carried the still-burning votives and tealights out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, and lit more candles around the bedroom. Anthony had Sören lay down on his stomach and he took out the vanilla-flavored massage oil and spent the next hour working Sören over, rubbing down the back of him then the front, continuing to deepen Sören's relaxation while also building his arousal again. As his hands kneaded, Anthony had the plug going inside Sören again to further build the sexual tension back up, changing speeds up and down depending on where his hands were and how Sören was responding. When Sören lay on his back looking up at Anthony - who himself was rock hard - every now and again Anthony's hand would "accidentally" brush Sören's hard cock, smiling as it leapt to his touch. At last Anthony dove down, and turned up the vibe to a higher setting as he began to lick Sören's cock... just licking it up and down, from the head to the shaft and back again, teasing, making Sören writhe and pant and gasp and whimper.

When Sören finally let out a breathy "please," Anthony just grinned at him and licked even more slowly and deliberately. Sören howled, almost sobbing, and begged "Please. Please, fucking please..." and then, looking in Anthony's eyes, he whispered, "Please, brother."

Anthony took the plug out of Sören, and Sören thought for sure Anthony was going to replace it with his cock, but instead Anthony's tongue pushed into him. And for the next while that tongue took him to heaven, and higher than heaven, licking inside him so lusciously, as good as anything had ever felt in Sören's life, his prostate as exquisitely sensitive as it was. Anthony ate him by turns delicately and passionately, his tongue switching speeds as the vibrating plug had, but even better, more precise. Sören heard himself screaming, felt himself rocking his hips like he was possessed by the animal part of him, fucking himself desperately on Anthony's tongue, which made Anthony grab Sören's hips, holding him in place, and his tongue slowed down even more. But at last, Anthony devoured him and let go of Sören's hips, Sören thrusting to match the rhythm of the tongue fucking away inside him, and like that Sören gave in to one of the most intense orgasms he'd ever had, pleasure so good it made him cry. Anthony came up to kiss his tears, pulled Sören close and rocked him.

"Thank you," Sören breathed, the euphoria bathing him in light, in heat, feeling love so fiercely, so much it hurt. "I love you. Thank you. Takk ástin mín, ég elska þig."

Anthony kissed Sören's brow and looked into his eyes, stroking Sören's cheek. "I loved doing that for you. I love you."

"I guess you did," Sören laughed, reaching for Anthony's hard cock, completely slick with precum. "Whatever shall we do with this?"

"Whatever you want, love."

Sören lay Anthony back against the pillows, and took Anthony's cock into his mouth. He sucked slowly at first - paying him back at least a little for all the teasing - but lust got the better of him and a few minutes into it he was sucking harder, faster, his own cock hardening up again at Anthony's moans, the look of ecstasy on his face as Sören pleasured him. It didn't take long for Anthony to be undone, flooding Sören's mouth, who savored every drop as he swallowed it down and licked him clean.

As Sören lay there cradled against Anthony's chest while Anthony recovered, Sören licked his lips, loving the lingering taste of him, and when Anthony pulled him into a kiss, Sören husked, "I want seconds."

Anthony smiled. "Only if I can taste you too."

Sören smiled back. "I think that can be arranged."

Sören sat on Anthony's shoulders, and leaned down, laying on top of him. Anthony moaned into Sören as his tongue pushed inside and Sören's mouth wrapped around his cock; Sören moaned with his mouth full as Anthony's tongue worked its magic inside him once more. After awhile they lay at each other's sides, both sucking and rimming each other, taking their time getting there, completely lost in each other and the need to please and be pleasured. And when they could feel each other at the point of no return, they took each other's hands and climaxed together, filling each other's mouths, crying out with their mouths full.

Kissing, sharing the taste of them together, Sören needed more. Anthony lay back and Sören repaid him some more for his teasing, working his tongue inside him, stroking himself to the deliciousness of Anthony's moans and sighs and the heat in his eyes. When Anthony grabbed Sören's curls, pulling him up, Sören was still in a teasing mood, fucking him slowly at first, savoring the silken heat kissing his cock. And then Anthony slapped Sören's ass and growled, making Sören's cock throb, and with one of Anthony's legs on Sören's shoulder, Sören gave him the savage, punishing thrusts he wanted - that Sören himself wanted, loving that feeling of the beast in him coming out to play, taking. After awhile Anthony pulled Sören down against him and clawed his back, kissing feverishly as he worked his hips back at Sören, urging him on even harder, until Sören didn't know who was fucking who. Sören cried out at Anthony's teeth on his neck and shoulder, and the feeling of Anthony's nails raking him with each moan Anthony made threatened to send Sören over the edge, but he held back, wanting his lover to come first. And at last Anthony did, giving in to a loud, messy orgasm that Sören found deeply gratifying, throwing back his head and crying out as he spent into the man he loved.

It still wasn't enough. When Sören slipped out of him, Anthony rolled Sören onto his back, produced a black cashmere scarf, and tied Sören's wrists to the headboard, looking tenderly into Sören's eyes as Sören looked up at him with love and trust. Anthony fucked him slowly, sweetly, teasing Sören some more, kissing him again and again. When Anthony kissed and nipped at Sören's neck and throat, he rasped, "I should get you a leash and collar." Sören's cock throbbed at that, loving the thought of it, and he kissed Anthony back hard, bucking underneath him to encourage it. Anthony laughed and kept moving slowly a few minutes longer, and then when Sören moaned, "Please, brother," Anthony gave in to his own lust, driving into Sören furiously as Sören howled and writhed. Dozens of hungry kisses later, Sören met Anthony's eyes and begged, "Let me come." And with Anthony's teeth on Sören's throat, giving a growl, Sören let go, surrendering, exploding. Feeling Anthony spend into him, hearing him call out, "Sören, I love you," just made it even better.

At some point Sören was aware of being untied, and Anthony getting up to snuff out the candles - Sören whined in protest of the suddenly cold, empty space in bed. Anthony got back in when the lights were off and cuddled Sören against him with a soft chuckle, tousling Sören's curls, skritching his beard. Sören made a purring noise and Anthony teased, "My little kitten," before giving Sören a kiss. Sören went to sleep with a smile on his face.

Sören woke up the next day still smiling, and before he and Anthony had to leave for their respective jobs Sören took Anthony again, the two of them reaching a powerful orgasm like the hours of sleep they'd gotten was too long apart and they were pent up and starving for each other. The endorphin rush made Sören giggly on the way to work.

Sören's good mood was infectious - even colleagues who'd been bitter and grumpy yesterday about being alone on Valentine's Day, couldn't help smiling back at Sören. All felt right with the world, a mood that continued when he performed a scan to show a patient their progress, that they were on the road to recovery.

And then it all came crashing down in the afternoon.

Sören had a pediatric patient, a little girl with a brain tumor who was scared and crying, and her parents were scared and crying. And though the surgery being performed gave her a strong shot at survival, it was still harrowing for everyone involved. Sören really felt for the parents, who were a wreck, and he especially felt bad that they would have to wait in the lobby rather than being allowed in the operating theatre. But he felt worst of all for the sweet child he was about to operate on, and though he tried to use his warm, gentle, and somewhat playful bedside manner to get her to calm down and smile a little, he knew she was still upset when she went under, and he, too, was upset - collected and concentrating on the procedure, as he had to be - but upset nonetheless.

The two types of patients that came in that were always hardest for him emotionally were the trauma cases, usually someone in an accident who needed emergency spinal surgery or something else, and the pediatrics. Sören had been asked more than once if he intended to further specialize in pediatric neurosurgery since children seemed to universally like him and he had a way of soothing them, but Sören's answer to that was always no. He would take the occasional pediatric patient that came in to National that had to be worked on by the general neurosurgeons while the pediatric specialists had their hands full, or they were available but needed help on an operating team. But having more than 75% of his cases be pediatrics felt like a recipe for Sören to have a nervous breakdown, not that he ever replied in those exact words, but he was always a mess after dealing with children even when the procedure went well, even when he and their families knew the child had a reasonable prognosis. He didn't like seeing children suffer. It was that, even more than his own experiences, which made him an agnostic - if there was a God, he thought that being must be downright evil for inflicting that kind of pain on something so small and helpless.

The look of fear in the little girl's eyes stayed with him when he took the Tube home. After he'd washed up and changed into his pajamas he tried to distract himself by drawing on his new WaCom tablet, but he was too distraught.

He ended up doing something he had not done in a long time. He went into his closet, into the suitcase that had come with him from Iceland to England. In the suitcase, he had tucked a pillowcase. It had come out a few times after his move from Iceland, when he lived in the flat in Bromley, but he hadn't touched it since moving in with Anthony. Now, though, he needed to. It was not the pillowcase itself, but what was inside it. He dragged it to bed and curled up with it in the fetal position - not falling asleep, but just holding it. Crying, silently and not-so-silently.

That was how Anthony found him when he got in.

"Sören?" Anthony paused in the doorframe of the bedroom.

Sören opened his eyes and looked up at Anthony, who was giving him a concerned look. Sören tried to manage a smile, but Anthony knew, of course, that something was wrong. Still in his suit and tie, Anthony sat on the edge of the bed and began petting Sören. "Sweetheart, what is it? What happened?"

Sören let out a deep sigh. It took him a moment to find his words. "I had to perform surgery on an eight-year-old girl with a brain tumor today. I fucking hate, hate seeing kids with serious health issues like that, scared and in pain..." And Sören broke down, weeping. "I hate it so much. So much."

Anthony swallowed hard. He reached out and pulled Sören into his arms, seeming to not care that Sören was messily crying on the shoulder of his Brooks Brothers suit. He pet Sören's curls, rubbed his back. "Oh, love. You've got such a sensitive heart, and it's one of the things I love the most about you."

Sören snuffled. "I used to get all kinds of shit about it growing up. In school, and..." His voice trailed off, not wanting to say and at home, from my aunt and uncle.

That was rather why he had what he had in the pillowcase. Anthony patted it. "What's this? It feels like there's something in it."

Sören sighed again.

Anthony cupped Sören's chin in his hand and made Sören meet his eyes. "You can tell me, you know."

Sören handed the pillowcase to Anthony. He didn't want to deal with opening it up and taking the contents out himself.

Anthony opened up the pillowcase, reached inside, and then he pulled out the head of a cornflower blue cloth rabbit, with a kind face and big, floppy ears. Stuffing was coming out of the head. Anthony exhaled sharply. He reached inside again and pulled out the arms, a chest and stomach attached to a leg, another leg. The parts were assembled on the bed, and Anthony frowned.

There was a long moment of silence before Sören could explain it. His voice shook as he did. "My mamma made it for me before she died. His name is Bláberja, which means, ah, Blueberry in Icelandic. I wanted him to be blue, that's my favorite color." Tears spilled down Sören's cheeks again. "It's the only thing I have from her."

"What happened to him?" Anthony's voice was quiet but firm, insistent, not willing to let this go.

"My uncle Einar happened to him." Sören pinched the bridge of his nose, bracing himself for the flood of memories and emotions. "Einar thought I was too old for something like that, and that boys shouldn't have stuffed animals besides, that I was 'soft'. Einar was always picking on me about not being a 'real man'. And, well, I didn't get rid of my bunny. I couldn't. I hid him, and I took him out when I needed comfort. I needed quite a bit of that, between getting mocked and sometimes beat up in school, and then coming home and my aunt and uncle were drinking and got violent and mean when they were drunk." Sören realized this was the first time he'd really gotten in-depth with Anthony about what his childhood had been like, though Anthony knew from their first meeting Sören's guardians had been alcoholics.

Then Anthony said, "I'd got that from... the scars on your back. The ink covers it but it's still noticeable."

"You never miss a thing, do you?" Sören knew he shouldn't have been surprised, but he was surprised anyway. He went on. "One night Einar was drinking and he started fucking with me, as usual. I thought he passed out drunk and that it was safe to get my bunny, and then he came back for more, saw me with him again, and..." Sören took a few deep breaths but he started shaking, seeing it in his mind's eye.

"Jesus." Anthony winced.

Then he caught Sören in a fierce, tight hug. "Sören. I'm so sorry."

"So am I." Sören broke down again, sobbing. "I didn't have the heart to get rid of the scraps. I don't know how to sew... I still don't, actually. I can perform fucking surgery, but I don't know how to sew, like, cloth. So I've had the pieces all this time, in that pillowcase. I can't hold my bunny as-is anymore when I get sad, but I can hold the pillowcase and it's almost like..." He couldn't finish the sentence.

Anthony rocked him. Sören was making a mess on his suit again. Anthony patted him and said, "I'm going to get up and get changed, it won't be long."

Anthony changed into pajamas in front of him and then he got back on the bed, this time laying on the bed instead of sitting on the edge. He drew Sören against him, cradling Sören against his chest, legs twining, and he started rocking Sören again, petting, as Sören cried and cried. "Shhhhh. It's OK."

"You..." Sören didn't sense any judgment in Anthony about this, but after what he'd been through with Einar, and all of the macho posturing he'd seen in school and even occasionally at work with fellow doctors, Sören never knew how people would react to a grown man needing a stuffed toy. "You don't think any less of me for this, do you?"

"Hardly. For starters, it's incredibly sweet and adorable that you kept him all this time." Anthony kissed Sören's brow, stroked his cheek, and gave him a sad smile. Sören saw the tears in Anthony's own eyes, crying silently in solidarity with him. Knowing Anthony didn't cry much, and was now crying for him, made Sören lose it again, and this time Anthony didn't try to keep his own tears silent and contained, trembling against Sören, giving a shuddery little gasp. A few minutes later, when Anthony had pulled himself together again, he said, "And I would be a hypocrite if I judged you."

"Hm?" Sören raised an eyebrow.

Anthony patted Sören, detangled from him, and swung off the bed. Sören watched as Anthony went to the closet. "Are you getting George?" Sören asked, not able to resist the moment of levity.

Anthony snorted, gave Sören the finger, and opened the closet. He got on his knees, to where he kept his shoes, and opened a shoebox that Sören had presumed had shoes in it. With his hands behind his back, Anthony came over to the bed and then he pulled out what he was hiding behind him - a worn-looking stuffed lion that was nonetheless in good condition.

"This is Finn," Anthony said. "I've had him since I was four, which makes him twenty-eight now."

"Wow."

"Once in a great while, when I have had an especially crap week at the Inn, Finn comes out to sleep with me." Anthony pushed Finn into Sören's arms. "I can't sew, Sören, or I'd repair your bunny in a heartbeat. The only person I know who can sew is my gran, and she hasn't done it in years, she has arthritis, and she's usually off galavanting in Europe with Donovan. And I'm not trying to replace your bunny. But if you need a soft friend to comfort you right now, you can borrow Finn."

Sören was indescribably touched - not just at the thoughtfulness of the gesture but that Anthony, himself, had secretly kept a stuffed toy all this time that he occasionally brought out for comfort. Sören started to cry again. Sören was a bit exasperated with himself for crying so much, especially now that it was exhausting him, but he couldn't help it. He held Finn and watched as Anthony gingerly put the pieces of the bunny back in the pillowcase. "Do you want this out for awhile, or shall I put him back where you got him from?" Anthony asked.

"Out for awhile, if you don't mind."

Anthony leaned in to kiss Sören's brow. "I don't mind at all." Then he tousled Sören's curls and rubbed his shoulder. "I'll give you some time, I'll be back in a little while."

Sören heard the sound of Anthony puttering around in the kitchen, and assumed Anthony was making tea. And then, just as Sören was about to doze off for a bit with Finn in his arms, Anthony came back in the bedroom and said, "Sören? I made you grilled cheese."

Anthony knew that grilled cheese was Sören's favorite food, not exciting or fancy but it was still his favorite nonetheless, something comforting. And that Anthony had made him his favorite - right down to the exact, precise type of grilled cheese, Swiss on rye, with a side of tomato soup - touched him again, making Sören cry a little as he came out and saw the food waiting for him.

"It was the least I could do." Anthony pulled Sören onto his shoulder and tousled his curls again, kissed the top of his forehead. "I can't cook worth a damn, but I can make that, and you said you like it..."

Sören threw his arms around him and gave him a kiss.

After they ate - and then had tea, the cure for all ills - Anthony curled up with a Tolstoy book and cuddled Sören, who held Finn some more as he zoned out to the BBC. Sören was emotionally drained enough to be exhausted, and eventually Anthony got up to do dishes, turned off the TV and the living room light, and picked up Sören from the couch - Sören holding onto Finn - and carried him down the hall to the bedroom. He tucked Sören in and got beside him, and just continued holding Sören as they fell asleep.

Sören ended up dreaming about the girl he operated on, who then morphed into himself at eight years old, and Einar calling him a "sissy girl". And Einar knocked over the tray-cart of surgical tools and snarled, "You want something to cry about? I'll give you something to cry about" and began to beat Sören as he had beaten him many times before, finally ripping Sören apart as he had ripped apart the bunny. "I'll show you surgery, you pathetic cunt!"

Sören woke up screaming, gasping for breath. Anthony was next to him and he threw his arms around Sören, holding him tight, rocking him. Sören started to cry, as much with anger for himself for still hurting years later, not able to get over it, frustrated that Einar still owned space in his head.

"Goddammit," Sören sobbed.

"Bad dream?"

Sören nodded and buried his face in Anthony's shoulder, letting out a wail.

"Oh, sweetheart." Anthony pet Sören's curls and kissed the top of Sören's head. He cupped Sören's chin in his hand and kissed Sören's tears, and in the glow of the nightlight Sören could see Anthony was starting to cry too, once again moved to tears for him. "It was Einar, wasn't it?" Anthony's own voice broke a little, and he looked furious through his tears.

Sören nodded. "I hate that son of a bitch. I wish he was fucking dead, and I don't say that sort of thing about people, as a rule. But I want him dead."

"Listen, if you killed him, I'd fight for you tooth and nail. People who abuse children are the worst sort of filth. I've had a few clients who fought back against their parents, or against partners who were abusing their children - I represented a woman pro bono who killed a man for... well, never mind, you get the picture. But as a lawyer I must advise you nonetheless to not murder him." Anthony then muttered, "I'll be advising myself of this as well, to not hop on a flight to Iceland..."

Sören cried harder. He wasn't used to someone being angry on his behalf, let alone someone crying for him. "I wouldn't be able to do it, anyway. He's right. I'm weak."

"Sören. Listen to me. You may not be able to kill him - a lot of people can't bring themselves to cross that line. Much as I have to remind myself of this when it often feels the opposite in my line of work, most people aren't killers. The human race would be extinct now otherwise. But it doesn't make you weak. You're not weak at all. You are far, far stronger than you know."

"No, I'm not." Sören sobbed. "I'm really not, Anthony. Look at me. I'm twenty-seven fucking years old, crying because I had a nightmare about my uncle beating me up."

"Yes, Sören, it will still hurt. One of the reasons why abuse is so heinous is because it never stops once the act is done. The victim gets to live with that memory for the rest of their life. It sounds like on the whole, you have more bad memories than good. It makes total sense to me that it would still affect you. But that still doesn't make you weak. Not in the slightest."

Sören didn't know what else to say. He kept crying, and Anthony held him and rocked him and pet him. "Shhhh," Anthony soothed. "You're here now. You're safe with me. I've got you. I won't let him hurt you. I won't let anyone hurt you."

"I'm sorry," Sören rasped. "I'm sorry I'm like this. I know you need your sleep..."

"Sören, for once stop fucking worrying about everyone other than yourself. I shall manage. And again, you need to stop being so hard on yourself. If our situation was reversed, would you be telling me that I'm weak for crying, I'm not a 'real man', I should shut up?"

"Well, no." Sören snuffled. "I wouldn't say that to anyone -"

"So why the bloody hell is it acceptable to tell yourself that?"

Sören sighed. Anthony kissed his brow.

After a few more moments of silence - after Sören's tears began to subside, all cried out, at least the noisy part of it - Anthony spoke, his voice husky with emotion. "Sören, when we first met back in November, I was impressed with you right away. I knew, when you mentioned your guardians were alcoholics, that you'd likely been abused, and that was rather confirmed to me when I saw your back for the first time. And the fact is, so many of my clients come from horrific backgrounds like your own. Many times, they go down the wrong path because they don't know anything else. You would have been remarkable to me as you are, without having any kind of tragic past. Becoming a doctor is hard, I daresay it is at least as hard as becoming a lawyer and probably much, much harder. It takes a tremendous amount of strength to survive medical school and go on to work the kinds of hours you do, see the kinds of things you do, and have so much heart to help people, to want to save lives and make a difference. It is that much more remarkable to me that you chose this path after what you've gone through. That in the face of the cruelty shown to you, you chose not to return cruelty to the world, but to show the warmth and compassion that you yourself needed growing up. There is a light inside you that has endured through tremendous darkness. Despite everything, you still shine. You still burn. That is the opposite of weakness to me. When I wrote that first love note to you, with the flowers, I didn't just choose 'Walks In Beauty' by Byron because you're physically attractive, I meant - and still mean - that you're a beautiful person. With a beautiful heart. A beautiful spirit." Anthony gave him a soft, sweet, lingering kiss. "You are my spirit of fire, and I feel honored that you chose me to bask in that warm glow."

Sören broke down again. Just when he thought he was done with the ugly crying, he cried even harder, uglier - this time touched by Anthony's words, eloquent yet earnest.

Anthony rocked Sören some more. "I love you."

"That was beautiful," Sören cried.

Anthony kissed his tears.

Sören grasped at levity; his eyes and face hurt from crying. "You are such a goddamn lawyer."

Anthony chuckled, and he swatted Sören's ass.

Sören kept going. "You know what would have made that speech even better? If you were wearing George."

Anthony's laughter rang out, and he swatted Sören's ass again, harder. "Piss off." He gave Sören a kiss. "Besides, getting the wig would mean having to get up, and I don't particularly want to stop holding you right now."

"All right, well..." Sören reached for Finn in the glow of the nightlight and put him on Anthony's head. "I guess this will have to do. Tell me again about how I'm beautiful..."

"You're a beautiful little shit."

"Takk."

They laughed, and cried, and laughed some more, and then Sören lost it when he noticed Finn was still sitting on Anthony's head. "You should wear that the next time you have court..."

"Dear god."

"Let George have some time off, let Finn see the world a bit..."

"You are the most ridiculous thing in existence." Anthony kissed him.

"I try."

"And I love to hear you laugh." Anthony stroked Sören's face. "Your... brand of... insanity... helps keep me sane. I need it."

"I know."

Anthony pulled Sören closer and husked, "I need you."

Sören kissed him. "I know. I need you too."

Anthony kissed him back, harder, and then Sören giggled, "You still have a cat on your head."

"I swear to god."

A few moments later, Anthony took Finn off his head, put him in Sören's arms, and got up to bring Sören some ice water - once again, like he'd read Sören's mind that Sören was a bit thirsty - and after Sören drank it, then he settled behind Sören, his chest against Sören's back, arms around him, spooning him. "I've got your back," Anthony whispered, and kissed Sören's cheek.

Sören lay there and tried to get to sleep, but the feel of Anthony against him, and the lingering emotions from those words, and the need to be in a better place for awhile kept him awake, feeling vaguely aroused, and then not so vaguely, when Anthony snuggled closer and his hands slid down Sören's body.

"Anthony?"

"Hm?"

"Make love to me? Just like this."

Anthony quickly readied them both and slipped inside, and held Sören tight as he thrust slowly, achingly slowly, sweetly. Anthony cupped Sören's face and tilted it so they could kiss, and nuzzle, and make eye contact in the glow of the nightlight. Anthony kissed Sören's neck and shoulder. And at last, he kissed over the scars on the upper portion of Sören's back, closest to the shoulderblades, as he thrust harder, faster.

"My spirit of fire," he husked between kisses. "They couldn't quench you. Your heart still burns. There is so much love in you, so much passion in you, and I love you, need you, want you."

Tears burned Sören's eyes again, and Anthony kissed the tears that flowed, then claimed Sören's mouth fiercely, deeply, as he moved in for the kill, arms tight around Sören's waist, stroking Sören's cock in time with thrusts that felt like Anthony's own inner fire revealed, consuming him, two fires burning as one. Sören shattered, sobbing, and a moment later Anthony was done, crying out as he came, and he rocked Sören as they shook together, their release as much emotional as it was physical.

Anthony had to be at work before Sören did - he would be picking Sören up at National in the evening - and when Sören woke with the alarm, he saw Finn on the bedtable, holding a handwritten note.

My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.
-Neruda


Sören cried a little, folded up the note and gave it a kiss before he tucked it into the hollow book where he kept the others.


_


When Sören was on break, and having a cup of coffee with Colin, his cell phone went off.

Amadeus, Amadeus, Amadeus
Amadeus, Amadeus, Amadeus
Amadeus, Amadeus - oh, oh, oh - Amadeus
Come and rock me Amadeus!


Colin's eyebrows went up as Sören answered. "Elskan," he said.

"Hi, love. How is everything?"

"All right, I guess."

"No kids today?"

"No, mostly old people today, and one twentysomething going on sixty." Sören laughed. "How's the Inn?"

"It's one of those days when I question my sanity for going into this line of work."

"Awwwwwwww, poor elskan. Anything I can do for you later?"

"The usual is nice, of course."

"Mmmmmm."

"Mmmmmm."

Colin made vomit noises.

"Oh, your assistant's brother says hi," Sören said. He held up the phone at Colin.

"I charge if you want me to talk to you like that, mate," Colin said.

Sören howled when he took the phone back. "I can't believe him."

"Ask him how much," Anthony teased.

Sören snorted, giggling. "Anthony Wyatt-Jones, you're terrible."

"Thank you."

"I'm not gay, by the way," Colin announced.

Sören couldn't resist. "Hi Not Gay..."

"Oh, bloody hell," Colin said, facepalming.

"Sören," Anthony said, "I will be a little late picking you up. Like fifteen to twenty minutes. I hope that won't be too much of a problem?"

"No," Sören said. "I can sit in the lobby or something."

"All right. I apologize. I have to take care of something before I come get you."

"OK. I'll see you when you get here."

"I love you."

"I love you too." The call ended.

Colin made more vomit noises. "You guys are disgusting."

"Takk." Sören grinned.

Then Colin also grinned. "It's nice to see you happy. And Diana says he's the easiest to get along with that he's been the entire time she's worked for him."

"Oh, does she think he's difficult?"

"I don't know if I'd call it that, she's used the words 'type A personality' to describe him."

Sören nodded. "I can see that. He never really leaves lawyer mode."

"I'm afraid to ask what's up with that ringtone for him."

"The wig."

"Oh god." Colin laughed. "Of course, the damned wig." He shook his head. "My brother, Martin, he works for Family Law. I got to see him in the wig once. It was... pretty hilarious."

"So is everyone in your family in law but you?"

"Diana and Martin both are, my other sister Cynthia is an obstetrician. My dad came here from Barbados and he told us horror stories about the manual labor his parents endured and he pushed us hard to go into a profession so we don't end up like that. We're still killing ourselves with round-the-clock work, we're just not doing it on a plantation." Colin rolled his eyes and sipped his coffee. "What about you? You never talk about your family."

"My brother's an astrophysicist."

"Oh..." Then Colin's eyes widened with recognition. "He goes on Neil Degrasse Tyson's show sometimes!"

"Yes, that's him."

"Holy shit. I didn't assume he was your brother just because of the name Sigurdsson, I know that's a... ah, whatchu call it, not a surname -"

"Patronymic."

"I dated an Icelandic girl for five minutes back in college, that's how I learned that," Colin said.

"Oh, really?"

"Mhm." Colin grinned. "You all are freaks."

Sören snickered into his coffee. "My boyfriend seems to think so."

"Oh god, forget I said that." Then Colin doubled over. "Don't tell your man I said this, but my sister thinks you guys are hot. She's into that... what the hell is that called... yaoi or whatever it is."

Sören almost spat his coffee. "Does she read slash, too?"

"I don't know what that is."

"It's like fanfiction, but with gay sex."

"Oh. Sounds like you read plenty of it. Probably write it too."

"I don't know about writing it, but I might have helped with a few stories. Asked the important questions like 'when do they fuck?' and 'when is the orgy?'"

"Jesus, Sören." Colin laughed, rolling his eyes. "You're worse than I am." He shook his head. "You're probably worse than everyone."

"Just about, but Anthony's a pretty good match."

"I guess so." More seriously, Colin said, "I hope he keeps you happy for a long time."

Sören nodded. "So do I."

When Sören's shift ended he waited in the lobby with a magazine, only half-paying attention to what he was reading. He started dozing off in the chair, and then he heard a dramatic clearing of the throat, blinked his eyes open, and saw Anthony standing near the doors. Sören got right up and ran over to him, hugging him hard; Anthony chuckled and hugged Sören back, rocking him.

They got in the car and Anthony had the stereo on. Billie Holiday was playing softly, which Sören found comforting. Sören rested in the warmth of the car and the comforting presence of his lover, and when they got out of the car, Anthony popped the trunk and took out a small shopping bag. Anthony said nothing and kept his expression neutral as he ushered Sören inside.

Once they got in and took off their footwear and outerwear, Sören gestured to the bag. "What's this?"

Anthony handed it to him and walked off to the kitchen to make tea.

Sören reached in the bag and he pulled out a blue striped tiger, roughly the same size as Finn. He squeaked when he pulled the tiger out of the bag, and hugged it, then he came over to Anthony making tea and hugged him.

"I know it's not your bunny," Anthony said, his voice betraying the emotions that were starting to surge again, his eyes a little too bright. "But I had... to do something, and that's why I was late to pick you up, I looked online on my break and placed an order to pick up later. I..."

Sören silenced him with a kiss. Then he growled, "Forget the damn tea for a bit," and hauled Anthony off to the bedroom, to make love to him as rough and savage as a hunting tiger, Anthony responding with the ferocity of a lion.

After they lay there in the afterglow awhile, spent and breathless, Anthony got up to put on pajamas and resume making tea. Sören put on pajamas and came out for tea and to throw something quick and easy together for dinner. He also brought Finn out with him, to meet the tiger, and as dinner cooked and they sat having tea, Sören had Finn and the tiger on the coffee table.

"Hi," Sören said, moving the tiger's head like a ventriloquist's dummy.

Anthony raised an eyebrow.

"I said hello." Sören made the tiger give the lion a tap.

Anthony shook his head at Sören, grinning, and then he moved the lion's head. "Hello."

"You're pretty," Sören said on behalf of the tiger.

"You are too," Anthony made the lion say. "I'm Finn."

"I'm..." Sören thought for a moment and then he couldn't resist trolling. "I'm Tony."

"You're a little shit," Anthony told Sören, who gigglesnorted, and then Anthony made Finn stick out his paw. "It's nice to meet you... Tony."

"I could name him Cassius if you prefer." Sören snickered. "Or Muhammad Ali."

"Sören, I am going to take you over my knee."

"Promises, promises." Then Sören resumed playing with Tony the tiger, making him say to Finn, "Will you be my boyfriend?"

"You move fast, don't you?" Anthony made Finn cock his head to one side.

"Is that a yes or a no?"

Anthony made Finn hug and snog Tony, which made Sören laugh, and then they kissed as well.

"Well, that was completely ridiculous," Anthony said, leaning back against the couch.

"It could be worse."

"I'm sure."

"Hi Sure -"

Anthony glared, and Sören elbowed him, laughing. Then he scooped up Finn and Tony from the coffee table and held them together and rocked them. "This was really sweet of you."

"I worried you wouldn't like it. I thought about getting you another bunny but I had a feeling that might be..." Anthony's voice trailed off.

"I love him," Sören said, patting Tony's head.

"Good. I thought a tiger was appropriate because, you know, I have a lion, plus..." Anthony stroked Sören's face. "What I said last night about strength. You're a lot stronger than you know, a lot more powerful than you know, there's a tremendous amount of courage in you, a tremendous amount of fight."

"I feel an 80s song coming on." Sören got up, turned on the stereo, put on his 1970s and 1980s playlist, and found the right song.

"Oh... oh no," Anthony said. "No..."

Rising up, back on the street
Did my time, took my chances
Went the distance, now I'm back on my feet
Just a man and his will to survive

So many times it happens too fast
You trade your passion for glory
Don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past
You must fight just to keep them alive


Sören began to sing along with the chorus, belting it out.

It's the eye of the tiger
It's the thrill of the fight
Rising up to the challenge of our rival
And the last known survivor
Stalks his prey in the night
And he's watching us all with the eye of the tiger


"Dear god, Sören." Anthony pinched the bridge of his nose, but he was shaking, laughing. "Dammit..."

When the song was over, Sören checked on dinner then sat back down next to Anthony and cuddled the lion and tiger some more. And then he started laughing again.

"What?" Anthony asked.

"Well, we've got a lion and a tiger..." Sören smirked. "We should get a nice bear to play with."

"Our flat will be overrun with stuffed toys in short order, won't it?"

"Better that than wigs."

Chapter Text

On Tuesday, March thirteenth, Sören worked overnight into Wednesday afternoon. Anthony had been fairly stressed out before Sören went to work on Tuesday night, so Sören didn't ask him about plans for the following evening then, not wanting him to have to think and plan even more. But in the late morning on Wednesday, just before Sören's final patient of the day, and when Sören knew Anthony would be going to lunch soon and getting a chance to answer, Sören texted him with Do you know what we're doing later?

Anthony didn't reply right away, and Sören waited, and time wore on. Sören took the Tube home, getting a little worried. And once he got back to the flat, his eyes were heavy and he knew he needed a nap. He ended up passing out on the couch, and was eventually woken up by his cell phone playing "Rock Me Amadeus".

"Hey," Sören mumbled, his voice groggy.

"Hi, sorry I didn't text you back immediately. It's been... a day."

"Oh, elskan. It's OK, I took a nap."

"Yes, I can tell." A soft chuckle. "Sören, are you going to hate me if I want a quiet evening at home tonight? I'm in a burn-everything-to-the-ground mood and I don't want to be out in public when I'm like this."

"That's totally fine! I wasn't hell bent on going out or anything, I just didn't know if you wanted to since I haven't had many full evenings free lately."

"Normally I would be in favor of taking you somewhere. Tonight, though..." Anthony made a little noise. "Also, I may be a little late, like by a half-hour to forty-five minutes. I have some paperwork to take care of and I don't want to bring it home with me." A pause. "Don't want to shit where I eat."

That definitely sounded like the day had been awful. "OK, elskan. Don't worry about getting anything on the way home, I'll take care of it all."

"Thank you. I'm so sorry -"

"It's all right. Life happens. I'll see you when you get here."

"I love you."

"I love you too."

Sören gave a soft sigh when the call ended. He knew Anthony had been stressed out last night about court today, but Sören didn't know it was going to be this bad, and he ached for Anthony, wanting to do something to make him feel better.

They'd gotten takeaway last night, as they tended to do when life was hectic. Sören knew Anthony appreciated his cooking, and Sören felt like a nice home-cooked meal was a way to help take care of him. So as worn out as Sören was from the last few gruelling days, he headed out, taking a walk to a smaller grocery store that had less of a selection than the one they usually shopped at, but he could shop and get back home before Anthony arrived. He picked up steaks and fresh greens; there were potatoes at home.

On the way back it started to rain, and Sören found himself wishing Anthony was there to take a walk with him in the rain, which would have been kind of romantic. It did, however, put Sören in the mood to make the evening romantic in tone, hoping that would help put Anthony in a better place for awhile.

When Sören got in he got right to work, marinading the steaks. Sören watched the clock, wanting to have dinner ready when Anthony walked in the door, and timed the rest of the preparatory work, chopping the red potatoes and coating them with olive oil and seasoning, putting the steaks on the broiler and potatoes in the oven, and then, later, started wilting the greens.

Everything was coming out just as Sören heard Anthony's Audi pull up. He lit candles in the living room and added candles to the bathroom and bedroom, to be lit later. As Anthony walked in Sören was loading a plate for him, and he paused and gave Sören a look that melted his heart.

Sören also saw how utterly exhausted Anthony looked. Right after Sören put out the food, he came over and just held Anthony for a moment - who was taking off his shoes - and Anthony leaned against him with a deep sigh.

"I love you, you know," Anthony said.

"I know." Sören kissed the tip of his nose. He began pulling Anthony towards the couch.

"Er, let me get out of my robe first." Anthony frowned. "I feel like fucking burning it right now."

"Oh my god, that bad?"

Anthony made a noise before he stalked off.

When he came back, in pajamas, he gave Sören a kiss as he sat down, where Sören had food waiting for the both of them. "Sören. You must be exhausted. I would have been happy to do takeaway -"

"I wanted to do something nice," Sören said, cutting him off.

"Well, that's very, very nice." Anthony gave a sad little smile. "It's such a relief to come home to you on a day like today."

"How bad was it? Do you need a drink?"

Anthony nodded. "My usual."

Sören got up, poured him a shot of Hennessy and brought it over. Then he started eating, while Anthony took a moment, swirling the cognac around in his glass, collecting his thoughts.

Finally Anthony spoke. "I hate some of the cases I have to defend. When I'm charged to defend the indefensible. I keep reminding myself I do this so the innocent, the unjustly accused, can get a fair trial. So I can ask for mercy for those who are led down the wrong path because they had far less privilege and far more problems than myself. I keep reminding myself that I went into this line of work because somebody has to. But on days like this..." Anthony's nostrils flared before he sipped his cognac. "I hate being a lawyer. I hate people, when I see the worst of humanity. I hate myself for defending them, I feel like the worst sort of filth..."

"Ohhhhh, elskan." Sören's eyes misted. He put his food down on the coffee table so he could take Anthony into his arms for a moment, gently rocking him. "You're not filth. It's like you said - you went into this line of work for the right reason. You have a strong conscience. You told me when we first met, you would defend ninety-nine who were guilty, to make sure the one who wasn't, went free. You're right that somebody has to do this job. You're doing the right thing."

"Right now I hate it."

Sören pulled Anthony's head into his chest and his arms tightened around him as he pet Anthony's hair. "You have a good heart, elskan. And I love you."

"You have a good heart." When they pulled apart, Anthony stroked Sören's face and planted a tender little kiss on Sören's brow. "You remind me there are still good people in the world. And you're one of the best."

Sören smiled and stole a kiss. Then he gestured to Anthony's plate. "Eat, dammit."

"Right, sorry."

After a few minutes of eating, Anthony rubbed Sören's knee and said, "You're such a good cook. I still can't believe you went to that trouble after your long shift..."

Sören gave him a little kiss. "You're worth the trouble. It was, you know, what I could do to try to help you feel better."

"I appreciate it very much."

"Besides." Sören glared. "You didn't sleep last night when I was at work, did you?"

Anthony shook his head. "I tried. Sleep wasn't happening."

"Then you definitely need the fuel. Jesus Christ, Anthony."

"This happens periodically, has been a part of what's 'normal' for me over the years I've been practicing law. Difficult cases that bring on sleepless nights, then the battle in court, then the adrenaline crash. And this was a particularly nasty case. I was never so glad to lose in court in my life."

"Can you talk about it? Do you need to talk about it?"

Anthony looked Sören in the eye. "I defended a rapist in court today, Sören. A minor celebrity, has been known to do charity work, who nonetheless is a reprehensible human being. I felt sick the entire time, but it's my job, I didn't get a say." He looked down. "Forgive me."

Sören couldn't finish his meal.

Sören didn't want to go cold to him - he knew that it was in fact Anthony's job, it wasn't a choice, Anthony would have to practice another form of law entirely to avoid cases like this. And he realized that when he and Anthony first met, and Anthony gave him the speech about defending ninety-nine monsters so one innocent wrongfully accused would go free, this was part of the ninety-nine. He knew this going into the relationship - he didn't like thinking about it, but it wasn't like he wasn't aware. And Sören wondered how many people he himself had operated on, given a second chance at life to, who had done something terrible and didn't deserve that chance. He knew it was a non-zero percentage of the patients he'd had.

And yet, Sören had to sit with the knowledge that Anthony had defended a man charged with performing at least one act of the very same thing that had changed Sören's life forever, had sent him fleeing his home country and likely never to return. He knew that the courts were very hard on victims, and he wondered how hard Anthony had been cross-examining the accused's victim. How much of a defense he'd put up, and he imagined Anthony couldn't have just thrown the battle, if nothing else his chambers would have frowned on that.

Sören's plan of a relaxing bubble bath and then a massage went out the window. Anthony sensed the tension when he'd finished eating and they were both not-watching the news. Anthony finally got up and said softly, "I'm doing the dishes and then I'm going to try to get some sleep."

Sören felt a pang of guilt, but he also needed time to sit with these unexpected difficult feelings. And after Anthony had been in bed for awhile and Sören sat in the living room, alone, trying to draw on his WaCom tablet to distract himself - much as Sören, too, needed some sleep, he wasn't there yet - Sören realized they'd come to a crossroads point in their relationship.

From tonight on, he was either going to have to accept that Anthony really did mean what he said when he spoke of defending ninety-nine guilty for the sake of one innocent, and that someone had to do it, dirty as it was - people had the right to a fair trial, that was how justice worked in this country, and Sören did in fact know that in countries where it didn't, prisons were filled with innocent people who didn't belong there - and Sören was going to have to try to not take it personally despite his own history with child abuse and rape, or he was going to have to bow out of the relationship before it went much further, not just for the sake of his own mental health but also because he could see in Anthony's eyes and entire demeanor that he felt bad enough about doing what he had to do, and didn't need to come home to someone who froze on him for doing that.

Sören's stomach did flip-flops as he weighed it back and forth. Yes, he hated it that Anthony defended a rapist today. And it didn't seem fair to ask Anthony "don't talk to me about your job" if he needed to vent, and even if he didn't talk about it, Sören would always know from this point forward at least some of the cases he took on were like this, and possibly even worse.

But was it worth ending things over? He knew Anthony felt terrible about this case, much more so than came out in his words. And though they'd only been together since the end of November, and it was now mid-March - not a lot of time - it felt like longer. It felt like they'd known each other for far longer. Things escalated quickly between them because it felt right. And before Anthony told him of this case, it had still been right. If he walked away because of this, he'd miss Anthony desperately, like having a limb cut off, and he knew it would hurt Anthony too. And Sören knew that part of why he'd fallen in love with him as deeply as he did was those strong convictions, that commitment to justice and doing the right thing even when it meant taking the fall, being the bad guy in the eyes of many, because the alternative was worse. Anthony did what he had to do, because somebody had to do it. To keep doing it, even when it was distasteful, took a tremendous amount of fortitude. Sören had loved that sense of purpose in him, that calling, just like medicine was a calling to him. They were on two different career paths, but they sparked from the same place. Every client of Anthony's was potentially someone like Anthony's uncle, every patient of Sören's was potentially someone like his mother. Their lives had both been touched at a young age by tragedy and they rose up to say, Not again, on my watch. Not today. Sören gave the chance of life, and Anthony gave the chance of freedom, to the deserving as well as the undeserving.

Sören remembered once when he was a tiny child visiting Reykjavik for the first time, all of four years old. During their trip, his mamma had given money to a derelict, no questions asked, and then little Margrét, when she was Magnús, who was seven, had asked, "Why? What if they use that money to buy drink?" And Sören's mamma had said, "My grandfather always told me rain falls on the field of the good farmer and the bad, and that is why we have food on our table."

Sören had been named for his mother's grandfather, and now he took those words to heart. He found himself sketching his mother for the first time, as Lady Justice - blindfolded, bearing a sword in one hand and scales in the other. It had hurt too much to draw her before now. It still hurt, but everything hurt, and somehow, drawing this now was lancing a wound, cleansing it.

Sören was tired enough that he didn't finish the sketch that evening, starting to nod off as he was drawing. He ended up putting the tablet on the coffee table and drawing the throw blanket on the back of the couch around himself, stretching out. I'll just power nap for five minutes, then I'll be fine to get up and get ready for bed.

And of course, as soon as he let himself take that "power nap", he was gone. He slept on the couch that night, fully clothed. He heard Anthony in the living room in the morning, and he opened his eyes with a little gasp, and said, "Oh."

Anthony - who was in his suit and tie, heading out to work - gave him a stricken, hurt look, and walked out the door without saying anything.

"Fuck," Sören muttered a minute after the door closed. He facepalmed, feeling terrible. He was of a mind to run out after Anthony and shout, "HEY I LOVE YOU," but the car was already starting, and it was pouring rain outside.


_

Sören was in a bad mood all morning. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt this crap, and though he tried to keep it from showing, he nonetheless got a few concerned looks from Colin and Pamela and Ed, like they knew something was bothering him.

Sören felt frazzled, not just from the obviously unresolved tension in his relationship - made all the more unpleasant because this was so sudden, they had been so happy together - but also he hadn't slept all that well on the couch. It had been deep enough to keep him there instead of his body waking him up to get him crawling off to bed, but it hadn't felt restful at all. It was Sören's turn to pick the music in the operating theatre today, and instead of going for his usual classic rock or prog metal, he went with more downtempo music, something to try to take the edge off.

During a chiari malformation surgery on a young woman, Sören thought again of his mother, who had died at the same age. Not that the woman on his operating table had a life-threatening condition - though chiari malformatons could be debilitating, and in her case she had headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, muscle weakness, balance problems, and vomiting, which was a definite quality of life issue. This surgery was still a second shot at life, one without the symptoms that had been draining the life from her. He had no idea what she was like as a person in her day-to-day life, only that here, now, her life was literally in his hands as he cut open her head.

Love, love is a verb
Love is a doing word
Fearless on my breath
Gentle impulsion
Shakes me, makes me lighter
Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath


Sören thought of the woman's boyfriend, who was sitting in the waiting room; the haunted look in his eyes as she'd waved goodbye to him right after Sören had given them both a matter-of-fact rundown of the procedure. He remembered the look in Anthony's eyes last night when Anthony told him about his hell in court, and the pain in his eyes this morning that Sören had slept on the couch, assuming it was avoiding him. I have to call Anthony as soon as I'm done with this.

And then, an inexplicable frisson down his spine, gooseflesh breaking out over his arms and neck. For a moment he felt like he'd been thrown into a vacuum and all the air was sucked out of him, his heart starting to race for no reason.

Water is my eye
Most faithful mirror
Fearless on my breath
Teardrop on the fire
Of a confession
Fearless on my breath
Most faithful mirror
Fearless on my breath


"Anthony," Sören heard himself say out loud, heart pounding harder, breath coming out in ragged little gasps. Something happened. Oh my god, something happened...

Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath

Colin looked across the operating table at him. "Sören, you OK, man? You need someone to relieve you?"

You're stumbling a little
You're stumbling a little 

Sören thought about it, but then he shook his head. He closed his eyes and pushed out the thought of Anthony, used the meditation of glass closing between himself and the world, to quickly pull himself back to where he needed to be, here and now in the surgery. "I got this." Whatever it is, it can wait until we're done.

And so it was. The minute surgery was over and Sören scrubbed out, he grabbed his cell phone. The panic he didn't allow himself in the operating theatre slammed into him and he shook like a leaf, hyperventilating as he dialed Anthony's cell. There was no answer. Sören looked at the clock. This was a time when there was a reasonable chance Anthony would have a moment free to answer his phone, and if nothing else, Anthony would see Sören called and call him back at his first available opportunity.

Moments passed, and no call or text came. Sören didn't want to be a pain, but his panic was too strong, and he called again. There was still no answer.

Sören went on break, opting to hang around in the employee break room today instead of the cafe at the hospital, even though the coffee in the cafe was better. As he sat down with a yogurt, Colin said, "Mate, what happened to you in there? You choked."

"I'm OK," Sören said, not wanting to get into it.

Colin's eyes challenged him. "No, you're not."

The BBC was playing on the TV in the break room and Sören never usually paid attention, but a scrolling headline caught his eye: BOMB THREAT AT LINCOLN'S INN.

"Oh my fucking god." Sören dropped his spoon and got up from the table.

He made a beeline for the TV. Colin, Pamela, and Ed stood around him as he watched footage of the police bringing a bomb squad to Garden Court Chambers, with the newscaster saying a bomb had been intercepted, the suspects being members of a radical feminist militant group, claiming it was in retribution for representing a reality TV star charged with rape yesterday...

"Oh god." Sören felt ready to keel over. Ed's hand steadied one shoulder, Pamela's the other. "Oh god. Oh god..."

It was bad enough that this happened, which would have been awful on its own. It was that much more unsettling to Sören that he'd felt something was very, very wrong.

"It didn't go off," Pamela said, assuring but firm. "The police got there just in time."

They were leading him back to the table to sit down. Colin brought him an ice-cold ginger ale, knowing Sören liked them. Pamela opened it for him and held it to his lips.

"Sören, go home," Ed said. He was the man in charge this shift.

"I..." Sören looked at the clock. "I've still got a few hours -"

"If you were starting to get sick with flu I'd send you home so you don't get anyone else sick and cause an epidemic. You're too stressed out. It can't be helped, just like it can't be helped if you get flu. We'll manage. Go home, see your partner, and we'll see you as usual tomorrow, unless you need to take a day. All right?"

"I feel awful about it," Sören said.

"Shit happens," Ed said. "You've covered for others before, let us cover for you this time. Go."

Sören continued to try Anthony's cell on the Tube ride home. He considered going directly to Temple and seeing if Anthony was still there, but he had a feeling that might be a bad idea if the police were still hanging around or they had additional security.

He got home, hoping Anthony had beaten him there, but the flat was empty. Sören showered and changed into pajamas, hoping that Anthony would finally call him back when he was in the shower. But when he checked his cell, still nothing.

Sören sent a text. I'm home now. They sent me home when it was on the news.

And a second text. I love you. Please be OK.

Sören had his eyes glued to the BBC news as he waited, though they were covering other topics now. And then, a little over an hour after he sent his texts, his phone finally went off with a text notification sound. Sören snatched up the phone right away.

lol hi im drunk

Sören couldn't blame him, and mostly he was just relieved Anthony was OK, at least physically. Sören sent a text back. Hi Drunk, I'm Sören

A minute later Anthony texted back a poop emoji next to a heart.

Sören thought about calling and yelling at him not to drive, but he also knew Anthony wasn't stupid and would probably find the admonishment patronizing. And twenty agonizing minutes later, Sören heard Anthony's keys in the door.

Anthony stood there for a long moment, with Sören sitting on the couch, the two of them just looking at each other.

"I took a taxi home and the car's being towed," Anthony said, his voice slightly slurred, as if he knew Sören had worried about him driving in his condition.

Sören wanted to say something, anything, but he couldn't make words. His jaw trembled and a little sob bubbled out of him. Anthony staggered over to where Sören was sitting, and he got down on his knees and rested his head in Sören's lap. Sören pet him, crying, and at last he picked Anthony's head up, pulled him up and cradled his head to his chest, rocked him.

"I'm so glad you're all right," Sören whispered. "I was so scared. I..."

Anthony kissed him. Sören could taste the alcohol on him. Then Anthony rested his head on Sören's shoulder.

"You don't hate me," Anthony said, bluntly.

"No." Sören took a deep breath. "I... I struggled, last night. But I wasn't on the couch avoiding you. I drew to try to... cope with everything, and ended up falling asleep out here." Sören stroked Anthony's face, looked into his wounded eyes. "I love you. That's what matters."

Anthony nodded. "I'll go into another branch of law, like commmercial, if you really can't deal with this."

"That isn't your calling," Sören said. "You have to do this, even when it's shitty. You can't walk away from it anymore than I can walk away from medicine. I understand."

"I don't even understand myself sometimes." Anthony gave a rueful laugh. "This isn't even the first time my life was threatened, you know. It most likely won't be the last."

And then Sören blurted out, "I felt it. I was operating and I knew something was wrong, and then on break... the news..."

Anthony's eyes misted. He opened his mouth, closed it, and now it was his turn to pull Sören close and hold him tight.

When they pulled apart, Sören helped him onto the couch and Sören got up to make tea. But before the tea was ready, Anthony was half-asleep from the effects of how much alcohol he had. Sören gently shook him. "OK, you, bed."

Sören turned off the kettle, then walked Anthony to the bedroom, helped him get in pajamas, and tucked him in. After visiting the bathroom he got in bed beside Anthony and just held him. Anthony fell asleep and Sören stayed awake for awhile, watching him.

And even more than the conclusions he'd come to last night, it was what happened today that made his decision for him, to stay. To accept what was, and try not to dwell on it. Because the thought of losing Anthony was unbearable to him. He'd likened it to losing a limb, but when he'd felt the danger, the brush with death, as his hands gave a patient a second lease on life, Sören's heart had cried out the truth - it was more like having a piece of his soul ripped out.

They weren't married - yet, that discussion hadn't even come up and Sören wasn't going to press it now if at all. But the words came to him, from the English vows. For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.

For better or worse.

...for better or worse, to have and to hold.



_


Even though he was hungover, Anthony still elected to go to work on Friday the sixteenth, and Garden Court Chambers would indeed be open as usual, with some added security, but open nonetheless.

"I'm surprised," Sören said as he watched Anthony get changed.

"Do right, fear no-one," Anthony quoted the motto, squaring his shoulders. He turned around and looked Sören in the eye. "I have to show the world I really mean that."

Sören made himself go to work as well, even though Ed had told him he could take the day off if he needed to, Sören not only didn't feel right about others pulling harder to carry his weight, but he didn't want to get into the habit of avoidance, which he knew from experience years prior was a slippery slope for him. If he called out today, he'd start calling out more often, making excuses for himself, and that would eventually tank everything he'd worked so hard for. And he had ambitions of eventually making consultant, as young as he was, and he wasn't going to get there unless he pushed himself.

Colin, Pamela and Ed seemed to recognize that Sören wasn't really fully recovered but was OK enough to operate and that had to be good enough, and attempted to keep his spirits up with lame jokes, and some tasteless ones, as gallows humor was common with them.

"I heard that bomb threat was a ruse so you two could run off and shag," Pamela teased.

Sören snorted, but couldn't resist a grin. "If only."

Anthony picked Sören up in the evening. They stopped to pick up Thai takeaway and ate at home in their pajamas, and then Anthony asked if Sören wanted to play a game to help them further destress. Playing Sonic the Hedgehog together after the kind of week they'd had felt surreal, but that was exactly why it was needed. It was made further surreal when Sören remembered what they had in the freezer and they ate orange sherbet with vanilla ice cream out of the carton, eventually feeding each other spoonfuls. When Anthony watched Sören suck on a spoon the old familiar look of lust was in his eye again, which Sören found comforting and reassuring tonight as well as arousing, and when that game finished they went to bed, and took turns giving each other a sweet, loving blowjob before tangling up together to go to sleep.

On Saturday morning Anthony was up before he was - not an unusual occurrence, Anthony tended to keep the same hours every day - and Sören found him sitting at his desk, but towards the window, watching the rain on the river.

"There was a moment," Anthony said quietly, "when I thought to myself, I wonder if they're right, and if I am scum and deserve to die for this."

"Oh my god, Anthony." Sören's heart broke.

"And then." Anthony turned around, sitting properly at his desk - albeit in his pajamas - and he folded his hands on his desk. "I had to remind myself, I've probably done more for women than that group ever has. Like the woman I defended pro bono for killing her partner for beating and molesting her children. Like other women I've defended who fought back against their abusive partners, maiming and killing them. Like women who've sold their bodies to feed their children, because there was no better option. Like young women who were trafficked and still charged like they had done something wrong instead of a great wrong being done to them. Like young women who grew up in council housing and turned to drugs and gang violence because they had no other options. I could go on and on, but you get the point."

"You've done a lot of good." Sören nodded.

"Apparently, not enough for some."

Sören walked over, took Anthony's chin in his hand, and made Anthony meet his eyes. "Enough for me."

Anthony took Sören's hand and kissed it, and then he said, his voice husky with emotion, "I love you."

"I love you."

Anthony frowned. "And unfortunately, I have paperwork to catch up on that I didn't get a chance to do on Thursday."

"All right."

Sören worked on his WaCom tablet as Anthony worked on paperwork and his laptop. Sören kept stealing glances at him, rumpled and sexy in his pajamas and wire-rimmed glasses, and fought the urge to go over and take him on his desk. Morning wore into early afternoon and Anthony finally got up, yawned and stretched, and said, "I'm going to take a nap."

"Hi Going To Take A Nap."

Anthony threw an armchair pillow at Sören, who tossed it back at him, hitting him in the ass on his way out, both of them laughing. Sören thought about joining Anthony in bed, since he was a little tired himself, but then he decided he wanted to do something nice for Anthony, a surprise while he was sleeping, a sort of morale booster. The question was what...

Sören recalled that Anthony really enjoyed the birthday cake that Sören made for him last month, having gotten the tip from Elaine that his favorite was lemon. It wasn't Anthony's birthday, but it was the kind of dismal, dreary weekend where having the oven on and something sweet and comforting was appealing.

Sören got up, threw on clothes, and headed out to the small grocery store. He bought a lemon cake mix, frosting, and eggs, feeling a little guilty that he was using a mix instead of making it from scratch, but it was still cake. When he got back to the flat he set to work right away, preheating the oven, mixing the cake, readying a bundt pan.

Sören wondered if the smell of cake would wake Anthony up, but he was still sleeping soundly just before the cake came out of the oven. After the cake cooled, Sören frosted it, and then he cut two generous pieces and brought them into the bedroom. But before he could get on the bed and wake Anthony up, the sight of him holding Finn the lion went right to Sören's heart - something precious and innocent at the core of him, that needed to be protected.

Sören found himself making a blanket fort, and letting himself in with the cake. He gently shook Anthony awake, and rained kisses over his face. "Hey, sleepyhead."

"Hm?"

"Guess what I have."

Without opening his eyes yet, Anthony grinned and mumbled, "A boner?"

Sören snorted and said, "Look, arse."

Anthony opened his eyes and then he let out a little gasp and gave an adorable smile, surprised, at the sight of the cake. "Oh my god, Sören." Then he looked around at the blanket fort, sheltering them. "Wow. You..."

Sören broke off a bit of cake with his fingers and shoved it in Anthony's mouth, and Anthony attempted to talk through a mouthful of cake, making Sören laugh.

"You're so sweet," Anthony said, and fed Sören a piece of cake.

They took turns feeding each other bites of cake and then Anthony's cell phone went off, which was on the bedtable outside of the blanket fort. "Swear to fucking god," Anthony growled, lifting up a blanket to retrieve the phone. Then his eyes widened and he swiped to accept. "Mum! Hi!" And then, "Yes, yes I know I haven't called. I was going to call you this evening. I needed a few days..." Elaine's voice, frantic staccato. "I'd assumed you'd watched the news and saw nobody had gotten hurt. We had to evacuate and..." Anthony huffed and rolled his eyes as Elaine continued lecturing him. "Mum, I'm fine. I just needed... to shut down for a bit." More of Elaine's chatter. "Sören's fine, Mum. He takes good care of me. He made me cake, which I was eating just now before you called." Sören heard Elaine's "is that what you're calling it now" and Anthony turned beetroot, sputtered and said, "No, Mum, actual cake. The kind you make from a box."

Sören lost it, howling. "HI, ELAINE," he yelled loud enough for Elaine to hear him.

"Is that Sören? Put him on," Sören heard Elaine say.

Anthony handed Sören the phone, shaking his head, and Elaine said, "Sören, love, how have you been holding up?"

"God. It's been stressful but I think we're gonna be OK," Sören said. "I assume you've been stressed out too, I can't believe he didn't call you."

"See, SOMEBODY UNDERSTANDS MY PAIN, CASSIUS ANTHONY," Elaine said loud enough for Anthony to hear. Then Elaine went on, "Sören, please do me a favor and come for dinner tomorrow night if you're free and drag that stubborn boy along with you, hm? His father wants some help planting in the garden, besides."

"We're going to dinner at your mum's tomorrow night," Sören said, as he fed Anthony another bit of cake, who nodded.

"All right," Sören said. "I'll see you then. And hopefully there won't be a next time, but in the event anything happens I'll get on him to actually call you back in a timely manner."

"Such a dear boy. Thank you, Sören. Please put me back on the phone with him?"

Sören handed Anthony the phone, and Elaine lectured him for an additional moment with Anthony saying "Yes, Mum," and then another "Yes, Mum," and then another "Yes, Mum," which made Sören giggle and Anthony glare daggers. And finally Anthony said, "Yes, Mum, I love you too, see you tomorrow."

When he got off the phone Anthony yelled, "GOD."

"I'd be worried too," Sören said. "I was worried."

"I know." Anthony gave Sören a sad look and reached up to stroke his face. "I..." He took a deep breath. "It still gets me here," he said, holding his stomach, "that you... you felt it."

Sören thought then about telling Anthony about the strange dreams he'd been having - where they were themselves but somehow looked like other people, and they actually were brothers, in an incestuous relationship, sons of a king. But that seemed too weird, so he didn't. He shoved more cake in Anthony's mouth.

Then when Anthony fed him a bit of cake, Sören got frosting on his nose. Anthony laughed at him for a few seconds with the dollop of frosting hanging off the tip of his nose, and then he leaned in and playfully licked it off. That led to them kissing, and then more sensuously feeding each other, licking and sucking each other's fingers.

"Whew," Sören said, "it sure is warm in this blanket fort." He took his shirt off and then he arranged cake on his chest, deliberately getting frosting on his nipples. Anthony growled as he licked it off, and Sören moaned and sighed - his cock was already getting hard, and it twinged even more now as his nipples were teased.

Anthony one-upped Sören, taking off not just his pajama top but also his bottoms, getting back on the bed naked, and arranged all of the rest of the cake on his chest, stomach, and thighs. Sören ate it off him, licking his skin clean, and when the cake was gone Sören nibbled on his thigh and asked, "Where did the cake go?" before nibbling some more.

"I don't know." Anthony examined the empty plate, and then he frowned. "Pity, I wanted more frosting."

Sören giggled. He licked the plate clean, Anthony watching his tongue with heat in his eyes, and then they kissed, tongues teasing, tasting. "Hold that thought," Sören husked, and climbed out of the blanket fort. He went to the kitchen, covered his erect cock in frosting, and came back with the jar of frosting just in case they had any further use for it. When Sören let himself back in the blanket fort Anthony laughed appreciatively at Sören's frosting-covered cock, and then he stopped laughing to dive down and lick it off, slowly and deliberately.

"Mmmmm," Sören said. He bit his lower lip and groaned, his cock throbbing from the slow play of Anthony's tongue. "Does my little brother like that?"

Anthony's breath hitched. "Oh god." He gave a moan as he licked again. "Yes, I do." He took a few more licks and said, "My big brother takes good care of me."

"I love my brother." Sören groaned again, feeling like he could almost come just from Anthony's tongue and the naughtiness of the game they were playing. "And I love my brother's tongue."

Anthony licked Sören's cock clean, and now Sören was leaking precum. Anthony chased it with his tongue, and at last took the head of Sören's cock into his mouth, sucking it, swirling his tongue as he sucked. Sören bucked and cried out, clutching Anthony's head. "Fuck..."

Anthony swallowed more of Sören's cock down, sucking hungrily, stroking himself as Sören moaned and cried out, panting, already on edge. And then he teasingly let Sören's cock slip from his mouth, gave it a few more licks, and husked, "I want to taste you now."

"Go for it," Sören breathed.

Anthony took Sören back in his mouth and it didn't take long for Anthony to bring him to climax, Sören giving a hoarse shout as he let go, shivering, cock throbbing and pulsing with release. Anthony swallowed and came up to kiss Sören. He was rock hard, rubbing against Sören's thigh, and feeling his erection got Sören going again right away, guiding Anthony's hand down to his stirring cock to tease it back to life.

"Tell me what you want," Sören whispered.

"You." Their eyes met. "Make me safe again."

Sören threw his arms around him and kissed him hard, and rolled Anthony onto his back. He kissed Anthony again and again, and then kissed and licked him all over, his hands sliding, fingers walking over every inch of him, as if every kiss, every lash of his tongue, every brush of his fingers, was weaving a sort of protective magic. "Once I have claimed something," Sören rasped, kissing down from Anthony's left hip to the scar over his thigh, "it is always mine. And nobody, nothing, will take you away from me." He kissed the scar, not knowing what it was from, only knowing he'd survived something, and the little shuddery sigh let him know he was right.

Sören teased him, then, licking his cock, sucking slowly, keeping orgasm just out of reach. He licked around the rim of the opening and pushed his tongue inside, tongue-fucking in a slow yet insistent rhythm, readying Anthony for more. When Anthony started to produce broken cries, gasping for breath, Sören stopped licking inside him and resumed licking Anthony's cock, getting the lube and working slick fingers inside, one then two then three. At last Sören rose and poured lube over his cock and the ready, waiting channel, and pushed inside, slowly. He took Anthony's hands when he was all the way inside, and after a few slow thrusts he pulled Anthony up a little, into his arms, rocking into him harder, faster. Anthony's arms held Sören tight, so tight, hips working back at him.

"I love you," Sören growled, and kissed him hard. Then he held nothing back, driving into him fast and furious, as if he were driving away the forces of darkness itself with the fire of his being.

Anthony returned kiss for kiss, nails raking Sören's back hard enough to draw blood. "Sören." He moaned. "Sören. I love you. I need you. My brother. Mine."

"Yes, elskan. You've got me." Sören stroked his face and kissed him harder. "I've got you."

They kissed as deeply and hungrily as they could, Sören slamming into him with wild, frenzied abandon. A few minutes later Anthony let out a tortured sob as his climax overtook him, and at the feeling of his stomach and chest being splashed as Anthony's silken heat pulsed around him, Sören came, giving a fierce cry of his own.

The cataclysm left them both breathless, wide-eyed, and then they kissed once more, breathing each other's breath, palms and fingertips touching. "I love you," Anthony called out.

"I love you too."

Now it was Sören's turn to doze off, and when he woke up, he found Finn and Tony curled up next to him, holding each other. He heard the shower, and he came down. He got in the shower with Anthony, and they just held each other under the spray for awhile, leaning on each other, just being together, letting the week wash away, holding each other up. It was one of those moments that didn't need words, when it said everything that needed to be said between them.

Chapter Text

Sören had to work Sunday early morning into afternoon, and in the early evening Anthony picked him up at National and drove him directly to his parents' in Blackheath for dinner. Elaine didn't seem to mind that Sören was in his scrubs or too exhausted to talk much - most of the conversation was focused on Anthony and the bomb threat at Lincoln's Inn, and some of the more hair-raising situations Anthony had been in prior to that, such as being stalked by a former client, which was part of why he had the flat in Kingston now, having previously lived in Blackheath a few streets away from his parents.

It rained, which meant no work in the garden, and it was later than Elaine had anticipated them coming besides. Before Sören and Anthony left, Elaine asked Sören about his schedule next week, and upon finding out that Sören had off the entire weekend of the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth, she invited them to stay over. Sören looked at Anthony, willing to follow his lead either way, and Anthony said, "Yeah, we could do that."

Sören definitely felt like National was making him earn that weekend off, putting in gruelling fourteen-hour shifts all five of the five weekdays. When Anthony came to pick him up on Friday night he felt like crying with relief.

He did end up crying with relief when Anthony drew him a bubble bath and they cuddled together in the bubbles by candlelight, sipping champagne. He cried again after the bath when Anthony gave him a massage, paying special attention to Sören's scalp and shoulders and feet, which all had built up a horrible amount of tension during the workweek and having it kneaded out felt so good it almost hurt.

After Anthony took care of Sören some more, giving him a sweet, languid blowjob, Anthony fed Sören Chinese food in bed. Sören dozed off after, and woke up feeling selfish, wanting to take care of Anthony, too. Anthony didn't think he'd been selfish at all, though he was still happy to have Sören offer to please him, and they finished Friday night making slow, sensual love, taking turns inside each other, frenzied and hungry at the end, biting and scratching each other, shattering together.

Sören giggled at their handiwork in the shower on Saturday morning, and Anthony chuckled at it too. When they were changed, Anthony and Sören took a look out the panoramic window at the riverfront, since they wouldn't be seeing it all weekend, and then Anthony asked, "Do you want to go for a little walk before we take off?"

"That sounds lovely." The sun was actually out today, and it felt like spring was here, though Sören knew the rains would come back later in the week. For now, though, it was blue skies and sunshine.

Then Anthony smirked. "I have a gift for you."

"Oh... oh boy." Sören braced himself.

Anthony produced a flat, square box. "Do you remember when I said I should get you a collar and leash?" He opened it, and a black leather collar and matching leash sat inside.

Sören squeaked, actually delighted that it wasn't just a threat or a tease. Anthony fit the collar around Sören's neck, clipped the leash through, and walked him outside. They spent the next half-hour walking along the river, Anthony seeming to not care if anyone noticed he was walking Sören on a leash. And Sören loved it. It wasn't just a gorgeous walk on a gorgeous day, with the man he loved, sharing this little magical moment with him, but he felt so close to Anthony like this, a tangible symbol of belonging, Sören's trust and Anthony's honor of that trust.

Sören pouted when Anthony took the leash off after they got back to the flat, to begin putting their overnight bags in the car. And he was a little aroused, too, from being on the leash on the walk. Anthony kissed the tip of Sören's nose and gave him a devious look. "One thing, before we go."

Anthony retrieved the vibrating plug he'd gotten for Sören last month, that they'd played with occasionally since then. After Sören cleaned out, Anthony joined him in the bathroom, lubed Sören up, and pushed the plug into him.

"This is so kinky, I can't even," Sören gasped, laughing when the plug was inside him.

With his index finger through the O-ring in Sören's collar, Anthony tilted Sören's head to his so they could kiss, and his other hand turned on the remote control so the vibe went on at its lowest setting. Sören whimpered into the kiss and Anthony slapped his ass.

As they drove to Blackheath, the vibe purring away inside him at its lowest speed, Sören thought to himself that there was something so wrong about Anthony bringing the leash in his overnight bag, and making him wear the plug to his parents', and yet the wrongness made it incredibly fucking delicious, crossing the line even more with the game they played of roleplaying brothers. Anthony turned off the vibe when they pulled up outside his parents' house, but Sören knew it would be a matter of time before it was on again, and even with it turned off, just feeling the plug inside him, rubbing against his prostate as he walked or moved in any way, was a naughty little thrill.

Elaine and Roger weren't there when they arrived, presumably running errands, but Anthony had a key and let them in. They went right upstairs to put their bags in Anthony's old room. Sören and Anthony noticed there was a vase of fresh lilies and violets in the room, presumably added this morning or late last night. Sören smiled and leaned in to breathe the delicate fragrance, and then his smile became a grin as he watched Anthony take out Finn and Tony and put them on the bed, hugging each other. Then Anthony took Sören's hands and pulled him along to the sitting room on the same floor.

Anthony went into the liquor cabinet and poured Sören a shot of amaretto and himself a shot of Hennessy. They drank and sat together for a few minutes, leaning on each other, just being together, breathing. It was little moments like that which were one of the things Sören loved about their relationship - they both understood the need for quiet space, and to be that resting place for each other.

Leaning on each other turned to cuddling, and at last Sören's gaze kept wandering back to the piano, remembering the way Anthony had played for him at Christmas. Anthony finally opened his eyes and noticed Sören looking at the piano. "Shall I play something for you?"

"Please," Sören said, clapping his hands excitedly like a big kid.

Anthony chuckled and, an arm around Sören's waist, led Sören to sit with him at the piano. He was still so shy about it, cheeks flushed pink, a boyish little smile - he actually bit his lip when he glanced back at Sören, and it made Sören want to drag him over to the couch caveman-style and fuck him senseless. But before Sören could give into that urge, Anthony flexed his hands, did warmup scales, taking some deep breaths to try to get his obvious nervousness under control.

Just before Anthony started playing, he cupped Sören's chin in his hand, tilted Sören's head to face him, and looked into Sören's eyes. Sören never knew green could be so warm. "I missed you a lot this week," Anthony husked, and pulled him into a kiss.

Then he began to play "Moonlight Sonata", which seemed to express all the loneliness and longing he'd felt during Sören's shifts, with having less time than usual. Sören ached, tears coming to his eyes, hearing the melancholy, feeling it, wishing they'd had more time together especially after what the week prior had been like, both of them still quietly reeling from the bomb scare.

When "Moonlight Sonata" was finished, Anthony played an instrumental of "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" by Elton John, which was less melancholy but still seemed to follow up perfectly. And though Anthony didn't sing along, and Sören didn't sing - if only because Sören didn't want to disturb the sort of enchantment happening here - Sören nonetheless had heard the song enough times that he remembered the lyrics and knew how appropriate this was to the theme of being missed, longed for.

Don't wish it away
Don't look at it like it's forever
Between you and me I could honestly say
That things can only get better

And while I'm away
Dust out the demons inside
And it won't be long before you and me run
To the place in our hearts where we hide

And I guess that's why they call it the blues
Time on my hands could be time spent with you
Laughing like children, living like lovers
Rolling like thunder under the covers
And I guess that's why they call it the blues

Just stare into space
Picture my face in your hands
Live for each second without hesitation
And never forget I'm your man

Wait on me girl
Cry in the night if it helps
But more than ever I simply love you
More than I love life itself

And I guess that's why they call it the blues
Time on my hands could be time spent with you
Laughing like children, living like lovers
Rolling like thunder under the covers
And I guess that's why they call it the blues


Sören let out a wistful sigh when the song was over, and just before he and Anthony could kiss, they heard frantic applause in the doorway. Sören and Anthony saw Elaine standing there, clapping, a big grin on her face.

"Bravo," she said.

"Mother." Anthony turned beetroot. "How long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough." Elaine winked. "That was magnificent, dear."

"It really was," Sören said, rubbing Anthony's shoulder, and he gave Anthony a peck on the cheek, only slightly disappointed that their kiss had been interrupted, since Anthony's bashfulness was so adorable.

"Come down and have tea," Elaine said.

They did. In the sunny, bright greatroom, Sören finally got a good look at the famed garden from the patio, and after Roger noticed Sören kept looking outside, Roger took the initiative and said, "Come on, son, I'll show you the garden."

Sören's heart skipped a beat. He'd been told Roger actually liked him, but having Roger call him "son" was definitely a sign that he was part of the family now. Anthony sensed the happiness rising in Sören, wrapping his arms around Sören's waist as he followed behind.

Even though it was only just the beginning of March and there wasn't much growing yet, Sören's breath still caught at the promise of it all, the high walls of faded grey brick, the trellises, the rows of soil with their little markers of what would go where, the pots, the shrubberies. It reminded Sören of the children's book The Secret Garden and just like Elaine seemed to be inspired by Victorian and Edwardian aesthetic fo the house, Sören wondered if that inspiration had come into play as well.

They went back inside a few minutes later, after Sören had a chance to take it all in. Roger went on about the different varieties of plants that grew there, and Elaine remarked on how nice it was to have fresh herbs during the summer, to cook with.

"I started taking yoga a couple times a week, a few years ago," Elaine said, "since when you get to be my age you rather need something to help you stay limber. It was actually Mum who got me into taking it, but now her arthritis is much too bad for any of that. Still, though..."

The more Sören heard about Anthony's grandmother the more interesting she sounded, and he was hoping to get a chance to meet her sometime.

"Anyway, one of the things my yoga teacher tells us is that we should try to eat living food as much as we can - fresh from the garden if at all possible. I don't buy into all the talk about prana and whatever it's called, but I do notice a difference in the way I feel when I put fresh things in whatever I'm making. And my yoga teacher is very keen on us having green plants around - the garden started long before I took up yoga, it's been part of the house since it was finished, but I think there is something to be said about having living things all around you." Elaine pursed her lips and looked at Anthony and Sören. "You should get a houseplant."

"With our hours we'd probably kill it, Mum," Anthony said. "As it is, we haven't gotten a cat, even though we're both cat people..."

Sören nodded, pouting. "I'd feel bad, with the cat being alone so much, even if it had a food and water dispenser. It would get lonely."

"Awww, that's rough, I know," Elaine said. She informed Sören, "Anthony grew up with cats. My last one, Alonzo, was a ragdoll. He had to be put down a couple of years ago. I still haven't had the heart to get a new one."

"Alonzo? After one of the Jellicle Cats?"

Elaine's face lit up, pleased Sören recognized the name. "The very same."

Anthony gave a small sigh. "Yeah, Alonzo was a good boy. I'd really like a cat. But." He frowned at Sören, who frowned back.

"A plant, though, is still a bit of life you both can connect with." Elaine seemed rather hung up on this idea. "There are low-maintenance plants that you could probably keep alive. A spider plant, maybe. A cactus..."

"Well, a cactus would be fitting, anyway," Anthony said with a smirk.

Elaine snorted. "A rose with thorns, maybe."

Anthony flushed pink again, but Elaine was smiling. Roger was the one to keep looking back at the garden now, as if being out there for just a few minutes made him hungry for more, and he came to his son's rescue with the teasing. "We should plant these seeds we didn't get around to doing last week," Roger said.

"Yes, I agree." Anthony got up from the couch.

Before Sören could step out to the garden with Anthony and Roger, Elaine reached out, put a hand on his arm and said, "Sören, I'd be honored if those skilled surgeon's hands of yours would assist me with operating on the vegetables for this evening's meal." She smiled, and Sören couldn't help smiling back.

They "scrubbed in", laughing together, and it became clear a couple of minutes into the chopping that Elaine hadn't just taken him in the kitchen to help prep dinner. Elaine kept stealing glances - the very same expression Sören had recognized in her son, when he was observing and particularly when he was looking for his "gotcha"; Sören had a feeling this look came out even more when Anthony was in the courtroom.

Finally Sören raised an eyebrow at her and Elaine said, "Sören, my son loves you."

Sören swallowed hard, feeling that familiar tight ache at his chest, the flutter in his stomach, the glowy rush of warmth. Sören nodded. "Jæja, he's told me as much..."

"No, I don't think you get it." Elaine stopped chopping for a moment. She put down her knife, looked off to the side, and then gave Sören a look that could drill through granite - another look Sören had seen from Anthony countless times now. "My son. Loves. You."

Sören slowed down chopping and waited for Elaine to go on.

"I'm sure Anthony has told you himself he's had a few partners over the years, none of whom lasted long. None of whom he lived with, you're the first. In fact, the two times we've gotten to meet men before you, Anthony didn't even let them see his old room, and he certainly hasn't played piano for them. These are all signs that, this is a big deal. He has let you into his castle, and you have seen a side of him that he does not, as a rule, show people. There are other tells, of course - the way he looks at you, his body language around you... the sound of his voice when he mentions you to me. Before I met you, before things got this serious, I could tell just by the way he sounded when he brought you up, that he's deeply in love with you."

Sören felt his face flush, not able to contain the smile. "I love him too," Sören said, his voice husky with emotion.

"I know. It's in your eyes. Your eyes don't lie." Elaine returned his smile. Then she gave him a deadly serious look, even somewhat predatory. That too was a look he'd seen from Anthony before. "Be careful with my son, Sören Sigurdsson."

Sören raised an eyebrow. He resumed chopping at his usual pace. Elaine resumed chopping as well.

"Did Anthony tell you about when he broke his femur?" Elaine pursed her lips.

Sören blinked slowly, startled. He'd seen the faded, barely-there scar on Anthony's left thigh, but he hadn't asked about it, yet, and Anthony hadn't volunteered anything about it, as if it was a serious subject for him. "No, he didn't. Wow. That's... that's a pretty serious break. His femur..." He looked out the window, where Anthony and Roger were puttering around. "I mean, he walks fine, moves fine." Fucks like a beast.

"Well, yes, the break healed. He was twelve when the accident happened." Elaine also looked out the window, and back at Sören. "I'm not surprised he hasn't told you yet, it's a very traumatic story for him. Humiliating on top of that, adding insult to injury. I'm going to tell you myself, because it's something I think you need to know, to better understand why I'm being like this. To better understand him, as you keep moving forward."

"...All right."

"To back up a bit, Anthony was teased a lot as a child. Bullied."

"I'm sure his name didn't help with that." Sören narrowed his eyes. "Cassius, really?"

Elaine snorted. "I'll forgive you for that," she said, with a wry smile. "It wasn't one of my finer moments as a parent, but..." She took a deep breath and the wry smile became a guilty grin. "There's a tradition in my family - the MacLeod side, my father's side - where at least one male per generation gets named for a Shakespearean character. An ancestor of mine was a great lover of Shakespeare. So, I have a brother named Demetrius -"

"Oh my god."

"My brother goes by Trey for short. Our father is named Lysander. His father is named Balthasar. And so on, and so on. I had Anthony when I was almost thirty and I was in my heyday as an up-and-coming architect, so I didn't think twice about giving him a name no one else would have. I had all those ridiculous new-mother-hormones coursing through me, my baby was the most special and wonderful in the world, I designed beautiful buildings and he was the best thing I ever made, he was the son of an artiste and should have an uncommon name, my family's tradition suddenly made perfect sense to my addled brain."

"All right, fair." Sören tried not to laugh.

"That said, even if I hadn't named him Cassius, he would have had... difficulties." Elaine took a deep breath. "When Anthony was a small child, he was... he was different. Shy, quiet. Sensitive. He taught himself to play the piano by ear."

"Wow." Sören was even more impressed with him now.

Elaine smirked. "He grew up listening to Elton John, I've always loved him, so picture little tiny Anthony plinking out 'I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues'..."

Sören's laughter rang out. He also loved Anthony even more now, that mental image adorable, priceless.

With a small smile, Elaine went on. "He also used to write stories. He had a very vivid imagination. He wrote about these three brothers... elves, they were."

Sören's heart skipped a beat, remembering the dreams he'd been having. His mouth went dry.

"He was bookish, intellectual... between that and wearing glasses and having a stutter, these were all a recipe for his peers to mock him mercilessly. Poor Roger didn't know what to do with him. Anthony was very close to his uncle Nigel, Roger's brother, who was apparently not so dissimilar when he was younger, and Nigel had gone into the service and 'made a man of himself'. Nigel never forgot where he came from, though, and he was, of the extended family, the most accepting of him." Elaine gave Sören a pointed look. "Nigel was also gay. Closeted, as one had to be until comparatively recently. I still don't know to this day if Anthony ever knew -"

"He probably did. Gay people have that gaydar thing happening, most of the time."

"Perhaps. Anyway, kids are absolute vile, godawful shits at a certain age. Anthony got into trouble a few times, even though from his side of the story the bullies are the ones who started it, and I believe him. I have no doubt that the experience of being punished for defending himself while his aggressors got away with tormenting him, contributed to why he'd gone into his branch of law. His uncle had a lot to do with it, of course, but..."

Sören nodded. He ached, understanding that kind of bullying all too well - he'd been through something similar in Iceland.

Elaine went on, looking sad and very tired. "One day I got a call from Anthony's school saying he'd been sent to hospital. I was an absolute wreck. Turns out that the bullying went a little too far, a gang of arseholes chased him - he was outnumbered, a dozen to one - and they were throwing rocks at him, they got in some punches, they broke his glasses, and Anthony couldn't outrun them... so he went up into a tree to get away from them. He fell out of the tree. He's lucky he only broke his femur, he's lucky he's still alive."

"Jesus." Sören felt a surge of rage, the urge to protect his mate even though that was two decades over. Hot tears came to his eyes.

"Anthony had to take time off school to recover - he had to have surgery, a metal plate in his thigh for awhile - and Roger and I had some serious talks about his future schooling. We decided at that point that we would transfer him to another school for a fresh start, when he was ready to go back, but we weren't going to coddle him, I wasn't going to give into my parental instinct to just take him out of school altogether and get him a private tutor, I didn't think that would do him any favors long-term - people have to be in the world, after all, unless he was going to be a hermit in a remote location that wouldn't do. So, he went back to school. And that was when... the transformation happened. Anthony, while he was home recuperating in the months prior to his return to school, began to work on losing his stutter. You would never know he once had one, listening to him."

"No, I wouldn't." Sören let out a low whistle. "He has a very powerful voice."

"He trained himself to sound like that. It's quite impressive, when I remember what he used to sound like. And he started to behave in noticeably different ways, like he was putting on an act, like he was doing it for the sake of survival. If he wasn't truly feeling confident, deep down, he sure as bloody hell acted like it. He was bolder, much more outgoing than he once was. And as time went on, it looked less like an act and more like he'd changed. But I knew from little tells here and there that the shy, sensitive, bookish boy was still there."

Sören ached for him, wishing he could go back in time and give Anthony a hug, one bullied boy to another.

"Part of his transformation involved, well... trying less hard." Elaine frowned. "He applied himself just enough, but not as much as we knew - I knew - that he could. I was rather annoyed with him for it, even as I understood that he was trying to avoid a repeat of standing out too much and becoming a target, as he very much had been when he was top of his class at his old school. But it was a double-edged sword. He went to Cambridge, which is perfectly respectable, but he could have done better than the school he went to, and he knows this, and he resents it, on some level. He told me once - actually, after the last breakup he had, when he came over and he was a bit into his cups - that he knows he quite possibly could have gone farther than he did if he'd been willing to push himself harder and make himself a target for more resentment of his peers, and he feels like he was too 'weak' to survive that so he took the easy way out, and he hasn't forgiven himself..."

"Jesus Christ." Sören blinked back tears. He wanted to go out to the garden and hug Anthony here and now, but he restrained himself. He was chopping even harder. Angrier.

"And I'm quite sure his orientation had something to do with it. He's likely told you he didn't come out to us until he was in his late twenties, but I knew he was gay by the time he was fourteen." Elaine started chuckling. "He had a crush on that rock singer, what's his name, Gavin Rossdale..."

That explained the Bush poster in Anthony's old bedroom. Sören howled. He leaned against the counter, wheezing.

Elaine put her finger to her lips. "Don't tell him I told you that. But I noticed things. I noticed a lot of things. There were gay men in the architecture circles I traveled, so it was easy enough for me to spot, I just didn't press the issue with him, out of respect for not wanting to embarrass him... or his father, who tries very hard but it's not something he can completely wrap his head around. Growing up in the 1990s, it was still a very difficult time to be openly gay, and it was easy enough to be accused of being gay by one's classmates even if one wasn't gay. So naturally, with that being one more 'weakness' that could be exploited against him, he was going to make himself so..." Elaine searched for the right word. "So much of an alpha that it wouldn't matter, if it came out."

Sören nodded. Then he started laughing again. "Gavin Rossdale..."

Elaine laughed again too. Then she went on, "Even his decision to take some time off school and see Europe, that was calculated. Yes, it was Nigel's wish that he see the world. And Anthony, I'm sure, enjoyed seeing it, no doubt sowed his oats, he was at the right age for it. But I think Anthony also knew if he took time off and came back, he would be the cool slightly-older guy who had more life experience, had been to Europe having adventures..." Elaine shook her head. "And of course, as time has gone on... he has to be a certain way in the courtroom. I had concerns when he expressed interest in law that he was going into the wrong profession and of course he doubled down, because my worry that he was too 'soft' meant that was exactly what he had to push himself to do."

She pushed her cut vegetables off to the side and then she gave Sören that drill-through-granite look again. "So that soft, sensitive boy that my son once was... that he still is, deep down... he shows that side to you, when the world doesn't get to see it anymore. I think at least part of the reason why he's drawn to you is because he can be himself with you. You are his safe place, Sören. He hasn't just let you into his home, but you are his home. When I look at my son, with you, I see the same sweet, sensitive boy who was chased into a tree and fell out and broke his femur, whose spirit was broken that day. You give him back a part of himself that he's lost." Elaine folded her arms and narrowed her eyes. "Don't you dare break his heart."

Sören laughed - Elaine going into protective "mama bear" mode was cute - but then he sobered, and nodded. "His heart is precious to me. I love him very much."

"I know. And I feel as if, you probably don't need to be told, you have no ill intentions with him. I'm telling you just the same. The last breakup he had was fairly devastating to him and he wasn't anywhere near as in love with the man, invested in him, as he is with you. That man probably didn't get very far behind the mask. I get the distinct sense that he doesn't even have the mask on when he's around you, though doubtless you've seen it by now and know what I mean -"

"I do," Sören said, thinking of Anthony's birthday last month. "And you're right. He's a very different person when he's around his so-called 'peers'."

"And he may act like he has a fun time of it, but I know it's exhausting for him, the way it was exhausting for me to schmooze at functions for my own line of work. He needs what you give him. I can tell you're not like most people, Sören. Don't change that about yourself, even if you're under pressure from his 'friends'. He wants you for you. I reiterate, you are his home. His sanctuary. Don't destroy that."

"I will try my best not to," Sören said.

"Good."

Sören's half of the vegetables were done and Sören was feeling choked up. "Will you excuse me for a minute? I have to run to the bathroom."

"Certainly."

Sören allowed himself to cry for sixty seconds, splashing cold water on his face, trying to ground out by taking deep breaths as he ran cold water over his hands, bent over the sink, his heart screaming for what his mate had gone through, knowing firsthand how awful bullying was, knowing what it must have felt like to be that alone. For all his privilege, and all of his power, Anthony was all too human - or Elven, Sören thought with a little smile, thinking of his dreams and Anthony's stories - and he needed to be loved, accepted, needed somewhere to belong. Sören loved him fiercely, savagely, blindly, raw passion and feeling and fire. Even moreso now.

When Sören stepped out of the bathroom, Elaine was waiting. Sören had hoped to get a couple minutes alone walking back to the kitchen, where he could continue to dial back the emotions and not give it away that he'd been crying for Anthony. But Elaine knew, and now she drew Sören into her arms, squeezing him tight. "My dear boy," she said, her voice raw. As Sören felt Elaine against him, he felt her heaving a little, as if she was crying too; her head was on his shoulder and he could feel her face damp. She picked her head up and wiped her eyes. "Nobody cries for my son. But you do."

"I am his, and he is mine," Sören said simply.

"Yes, I suppose you're right." Elaine nodded and pulled out a handkerchief for her tears, and Sören's.

Sören smiled at her and this time he initiated the hug.

"Come," she said, taking Sören's hand. "We've still got work to do, the boys are going to the greatroom for a bit when they're done in the garden. We can try to... pretend we weren't having this discussion."

"I'm glad you told me," Sören said.

"I'm glad you listened. And Sören, thank you."

"For?"

"For being you."

When dinner cooked and Sören was given some leave, he went upstairs to Anthony's old room, still shaken by the conversation he had with Elaine. More than anything else, he wanted to make Anthony happy. It was one thing to know Anthony's job was extremely stressful and another thing to know he'd gotten into that line of work from strong convictions that kept him on the path even when times got rough. It was yet another thing entirely to know behind all of that was a wound - a need to prove himself. And Anthony wasn't just standing up for the memory of the uncle who had been one of the very few people in his life to show him kindness and understanding, he was standing up for the memory of the hurt boy who fell out of the tree, who had gotten into trouble times before that trying to protect himself before things escalated to that point. Sören grieved for him, raged for him, wanted desperately to make it stop hurting, somehow. Not that he thought it would push Anthony into a safer and less stressful line of work - and he loved Anthony for those uncompromising principles, the fight in him. This was about the heart that Anthony had trusted him with, that he cherished even more now.

Sören knew he was good at making Anthony laugh, and indeed, Sören had brought something along for that very reason, which seemed prescient now. He rummaged around in his overnight bag and produced George, the wig. He brought George over to Finn and Tony cuddling, and now they had George laying across their laps like it was a cat, their paws arranged like they were petting the wig.

Anthony came upstairs to wash up before dinner, and Sören pretended to be dozing off a little. He knew Anthony saw it when Anthony let out a "Jesus Christ."

Sören opened his eyes and the look on Anthony's face was priceless - amused and fond and exasperated all at once. "Goddammit, Sören..."

"He was gonna be lonely with us gone all weekend," Sören said. "Isn't that right, George?" He made the wig nod.

Anthony facepalmed, shaking with silent laughter.

"Besides, we may not be able to have a pet, but Finn and Tony have one now. Don't you want our friends to be happy?" Sören made the lion and tiger nod.

Then Anthony quipped, "You mean you don't have a pet." Anthony's lips quirked. "I've got one."

Sören giggled, face burning. He fiddled with the collar. "Jæja, I guess so."

Anthony came closer, leaning over Sören, hooked a finger through the ring on the collar and rasped, "Such a naughty little kitten, taking things that don't belong to you. I think you need some obedience training later."

Sören felt a frisson down his spine, and his hole twitched around the plug inside him. Then Anthony stood up and gestured. "Let's go downstairs."


_


Sören was half-expecting Anthony to turn on the vibe during dinner, but he supposed Anthony going there right in front of his parents would be pushing it too far. However, the way Anthony kept glancing at him across the table, like Sören was what he wanted to eat, got Sören stirring, already needy for him.

After dinner there was tea, and then Elaine and Roger let Anthony and Sören retreat for the night. They got in pajamas in the bedroom, though before Sören pulled his bottoms up, Anthony held them down just for a moment to look at the plug inside Sören, rub Sören's ass, and give it a little smack. Anthony's lips quirked when he saw Sören was half-hard, and Sören wondered what he had planned.

"My parents are going to be up for a bit," Anthony said, looking at the clock, "so it would be best to..."

Sören nodded; Anthony didn't need to finish that sentence. "You want to play a game?" Then Sören chuckled, knowing how that sounded. "One of your old video games."

But he was also right the first time. As they played Super Mario together, Anthony turned on the vibe, taking perverse amusement in teasing Sören, watching and listening to him react as he gradually turned up the vibe faster, and faster, then back down again, slower and slower. By the time Elaine and Roger called to wish them goodnight, Sören was ready to climb the walls, panting, cock leaking precum enough that it made a wet spot in his pajama bottoms.

"You poor dear," Anthony whispered, leaning in for a kiss.

Anthony made them wait just a little while longer, both to finish the video game and to give his parents enough time to fall asleep. And then he got up, turned on the lava lamps - both of them laughing at the cheesiness of it - and he turned down the bed and wordlessly began undressing. Sören did too, and when Sören was fully nude, hard cock freely standing at attention, Anthony clipped the leash through Sören's collar and his free hand reached for Sören's cock, stroking it slowly. Sören moaned, and moaned again into a deep, passionate kiss.

"I almost feel sorry for teasing you so much," Anthony said. His thumb rubbed the sensitive frenulum of Sören's cock, making Sören gasp and shiver. "Would you like me to take care of this for you, darling?"

Sören nodded with a little whimper.

Anthony got on his knees and took Sören's cock into his mouth, sucking slowly. Sören grabbed Anthony's head, panting, gasping. Then he made breathy moans as Anthony let Sören's cock slipped and bathed it with his tongue, licking and licking and licking. Sören gasped and shuddered when the vibe went off again inside him, and he bit back a cry when Anthony took just the head of Sören's cock in his mouth, kissing it, tongue swirling. Sören shivered when Anthony gave it a few last licks and, with mischief in his eyes, Anthony said, "Key word being 'almost'. I don't feel sorry for you at all, because brats like you deserve a good teasing." With that, Anthony rose to his full height and tugged on the leash, pulling Sören along to the bed. Anthony sat on the edge of the bed and he grabbed Sören and pulled Sören over his knee.

With the plug purring away inside Sören, Anthony proceeded to give him a sound spanking. The leash was wrapped around the hand giving the spanking, and the fingers of Anthony's other hand were inside Sören's mouth to contain his cries. Sören got into it, loving the sweet sting and that feeling of being controlled, that feeling of depravity. He especially loved it as Anthony ground out, "My brother is such a brat. Mum and Dad won't put you in line, but I will. Someone has to be the responsible adult."

Sören loved it so much that he rubbed himself as Anthony spanked him, cock grinding against Anthony's thigh. He whimpered around the fingers in his mouth until Anthony took them out and said, "What do you have to say for yourself, brat?"

"Fuck me," Sören panted.

Anthony shoved his fingers back in Sören's mouth and his other hand slapped Sören's ass even harder. Sören gave a desperate whine, wiggling his ass, grinding his cock faster. He was already so close to coming, cock throbbing, the sweet spot inside him throbbing with each pulse of the vibe. Anthony's hand rubbed Sören's ass between slaps, and when his finger traced around the rim of Sören's opening and he gave a "tsk" and said, "My brother is such a shameless little slut," that set Sören over the edge, trying not to howl around the fingers in his mouth as he climaxed, making a mess all over Anthony's left thigh.

Anthony laughed. He turned off the plug, pulled it out of Sören, groaned as he watched Sören's hole contracting with orgasm, and he gave Sören a moment to recover before he tugged on the leash. "Well," he said, looking into Sören's eyes, "are you going to clean up your mess?"

Sören licked his cum from Anthony's left thigh with slow, deliberate strokes of his tongue, making Anthony moan softly, breathing harder. And when Anthony's thigh was licked clean, Sören found himself tenderly, reverently, raining kisses over the scar on his thigh, now that he knew what it was from.

Their eyes met. Anthony stroked Sören's face and pulled him up. "Sören," Anthony said, "I haven't told you how I got that scar."

Sören exhaled sharply. "Your mum did. Today. While you were..."

Anthony nodded, looking away, and then he looked back at Sören. "So now you know about... all of that."

"I do." Sören leaned in and gave him a soft, sweet, lingering kiss. "And I love you, so much." He took Anthony's chin in his hand. "I wish we could have been friends. I mean, I'm younger, but..."

Anthony took Sören's hand and kissed it.

"I was bullied too," Sören said. "Our experiences weren't exactly the same, but..."

"You still get it."

"I do. I get it, and I accept you - who you were, what you became... what you still are." They nuzzled, and Sören husked, "And we've got each other now. We're looking out for each other." Their eyes met. "Brothers."

Anthony kissed him deeply, fiercely, both men groaning into the kiss. Anthony got out the lube and readied his hard, urgent cock. Sören straddled Anthony's hips and impaled himself, and then he began to ride, lost in the passion of the moment, expressing his full acceptance - and his desire - with every rock of his hips and ass. Anthony held onto Sören, held onto the leash, and thrust into him with abandon, like he was fucking the pain away, exorcising the past, all of the loneliness of his younger years and sitting with loneliness again while Sören was gone so much this past week. They needed, needed to be one flesh, broken places fitting together, feverish, longing consuming them.

"My brother," Sören panted, grabbing onto Anthony for dear life. "My brother, brother, brother, you feel so good inside me..."

"I love you, brother." Their eyes met. "And I need my brother to come with me..."

They took each other's hands and came together, kissing, trying not to cry out, only half-succeeding. It was an intense, powerful, shattering release that brought them both to tears - somehow, playing this game in Anthony's old bed with his parents upstairs made the kink even hotter for both of them, but it was also so intimate tonight, with Sören knowing what he knew now. The orgasm felt like consuming fire, Sören holding onto Anthony tight feeling like they were both burning up, a glorious explosion into the stars.

They rested for awhile, Sören snuggled into Anthony's chest, held in his arms, listening to his heartbeat. They kissed and pet fondly, and soon enough tender, gentle kisses gave way to deeper ones, the fire rising in them again. This time Anthony wanted Sören inside him. Sören readied Anthony with his tongue, paying back some of the teasing, licking inside him slowly. Then he sucked Anthony's cock, slowly, as slick fingers worked in and out of him. When Anthony pulled on the leash with an insistent growl, Sören stopped, laughing, and lubed up his cock.

Sören took him gently, and for at least a few minutes Anthony let him go slowly, the slow sensuality of Sören's thrusts and Anthony's counterthrusts a dance of love, connection, the two of them melting together. They kissed and kissed, holding each other, and time seemed to stop, the two of them lost in each other, in a moment of paradise found, where none of the ghosts of their past or frets of the present could intrude.

And then it was pure hunger and need again, Sören taking him with savage, punishing thrusts and Anthony giving it right back, rocking his hips and fucking himself on Sören's cock, grabbing onto Sören and working Sören's hips himself. Sören tried not to scream, and ended up having to bite Anthony's shoulder. Anthony bit back. And now, the biting back and forth, Anthony scratching Sören's back, Sören raking his chest... that, too, was deliciously kinky under his parents' roof, the two of them unleashing something primal, like they were indeed made to fuck each other and nothing would get in their way.

Anthony came first, biting Sören again when he let go, growling into the bite. Sören came a few seconds later, shuddering gasps as he spent and spent, Anthony's teeth on him making him come even harder than before.

Sören thought for sure they were done after that as they lay there shaking, legs entwined, laughing and crying together, but then they were kissing again and Sören felt himself harden once more. He found himself getting on his hands and knees, face down ass up, spreading to show his well-used, wanton hole, begging, "Please, more..."

Anthony knelt behind him and took Sören just like that, pulling on the leash with one hand, Sören's curls with the other. "You are such a spoilt brat, wanting to get fucked all the time," Anthony ground out as he plowed into him.

"And you want to fuck just as much as I do. Your body doesn't lie." Sören smiled to himself as he felt Anthony's cock throbbing inside him, as if it were responding to those words.

Anthony slapped Sören's ass and grabbed his curls again. "My brother is such a slut."

"So are you." Sören wiggled his ass teasingly. "It's like we're related."

"You had better keep your voice down." Anthony slapped Sören's ass again.

But then the slap of their flesh got louder, and they were both panting, gasping. Anthony tried to slow down, and Sören begged, "No, don't stop, please, more, brother, more, more, I need more, please, more..."

Anthony gave a deep groan and fucked Sören even harder, as Sören whispered, "More, brother, more... more, brother, more, more, don't stop..."

Those words were like Anthony's kryptonite. Sören could feel Anthony trembling against him, and Sören was right on that edge himself. But the lewd, debauched, shameless sex was almost as good as the orgasm would be, and Sören needed it to last just a little longer, to keep feeling that delicious rubbing inside him, to keep surrendering, to keep burning...

"More, more, more, more, oh god, brother, more, I need my brother's cock, need my brother to fuck me and fuck me and fuck me..." Sören was completely out of control and loving every second of it.

"Oh god, Sören." Anthony leaned down and his arms wrapped around Sören, holding him tight. He kissed and licked Sören's neck, nape, shoulders, and when he began to rain kisses over the scars on the top of Sören's back, closest to the shoulderblades, tears burned Sören's eyes, deeply touched. "My spirit of fire. I love when you're like this. When you burn like this, when you burn for me." And then Anthony's teeth were in the sweet spot where neck and shoulder met, like he was a cat mounting another cat in heat.

My little lion, Sören's soul called out, thinking of the dreams where Anthony had the flood of silver-gold hair.

Sören was so far gone that he didn't last. Sören screamed into the pillows as he climaxed, and then Anthony collapsed onto his back a few seconds later, sobbing into Sören's shoulder as he shook, as Sören felt the pulsing inside him, the flood of white-hot seed. Sören groaned into the pillows and Anthony let out a shuddery sigh, and he wrapped his arms around Sören as best as he could, hugging him tight.

"I love you," Anthony said, his voice hoarse, broken. "I love you, Sören. I love you so much..."

"I love you." Sören tilted his face so they could kiss. "I. Love. You. I love you."

For awhile they couldn't move - Sören felt like not only was his entire body made of jelly but his brain was as well, like he'd forgotten how to move his body. He'd come insanely hard, and so had Anthony. And finally they did manage to roll out of position, and tangle up together to sleep.


_


It has been another long separation, and Anthony looks at Sören like he wants to eat Sören alive the moment he jumps down from the carriage. They try to behave for the sake of the prying eyes around them, but once it appears they are alone in the library they fall on each other, not even bothering to wait until they're in the safety and privacy of the bedchamber.

"I missed you." Fierce, hungry kisses, like fire. "I missed you."

"I missed you." Hands sliding over exposed flesh, skin burning, hands burning. "I need you. Need you so much..."

Sören is taken right there on his hands and knees like an animal, Anthony grabbing the knee-length flood of dark hair, pulling it as he slams into his brother with no mercy, as if every thrust is punishing him for a long absence. Sören loves it. He tries to keep the noise down but frantic cries keep escaping him, until Anthony's other hand is in his mouth, and that little act of control just makes Sören even more desperate, rocking against him harder.

Their thirst is slaked enough to be able to sit through the evening meal without incident. Anthony's wife is cool and distant but polite - it is an arranged marriage, and the aloofness is not resentment of them so much as being reminded of her absence from her own lover, their other brother's wife. Sören feels for her - this latest absence from Anthony has been harder on them than usual, it keeps getting harder every time - and after the meal he surprises her with a hug.

"Thank you for being so understanding," Sören whispers. "I hope you see her again soon."

She gives a small smile. "In these times, I fear no one may see anyone, very soon."

Sören does not want to be reminded of that. He needs peace... that is what he came here for, besides his brother. Anthony takes him out to the walled garden, his sanctuary, and he dismisses all the servants, wanting to be alone with Sören. "I have something for you."

It is a pearl-and-diamond choker, and matching leash. Sören recognizes it as his work, a custom order he took and started some time ago and completed recently, the order placed by a messenger who stated they were acting on behalf of someone who wished to stay anonymous - and with Sören making enemies, that was rather understandable. Sören would have never suspected that the ultimate recipient of the piece was himself, that the order had been placed by his own brother.

It is not the sort of thing Sören would wear every day, all the time - indeed, the more delicate colors and design are much more Anthony's style than Sören's. And that is rather the point. The leash reinforces who Sören belongs to, in the time it is being worn. Sören kneels, and graciously accepts as Anthony puts the choker around his neck, then adds the leash.

He is far less delicate and refined than the piece he is holding. He produces a dagger and cuts the tunic and breeches and robe from Sören's body. He takes Sören there in the garden, their cries like the birds Anthony keeps, soaring to the heavens, and soon their hearts and spirits are as well, as they come and come and come, so intense for the hunger of it, for the fire burning in their blood, burning for each other.

"My spirit of fire," Anthony rasps as he shudders against Sören again. "Father tried to shame you with that name, called you demon, but you are glorious. You are fire from heaven, fire from beyond The One himself." This is blasphemy, and they know it, but Anthony's spent cock inside him is blasphemy too. "I love you. It has always been you, and no matter how far, no matter how long, it is you that I wait for."

The ache in his eyes, in his words, sends Sören into frenzied need again. This time Sören shoves Anthony onto his back and rides him - still on the leash, still his... giving him more of that fire he loves, burning hotter, burning bright.

Laying there in the garden shattered, exhausted, the last golden light of day streams over them, just beginning to mingle with silver. Sören doesn't want to get up just yet, basking in the glow. Right now everything is just light, a light he will remember, and take comfort in his memories of light when days grow dark.

_


Anthony didn't bother to set the alarm on Sunday morning, and they were woken up by a knock on the bedroom door, Elaine's voice calling out, "Anthony, Sören, are you decent?"

It's like she knows we have sex in here, Sören thought to himself with amusement.

They were shirtless but had the covers drawn up enough that it wasn't completely obvious that they were naked under them. "I guess," Anthony mumbled, still half-asleep.

Elaine opened the door just a crack, poked her head in, and waved to Sören and Anthony, who waved back, Sören with a shit-eating grin on his face. Elaine raised an eyebrow at them, and her lips quirked as she said, "I'm making pancakes if you boys want to get up now."

And when the door had closed again and Anthony and Sören got up, then they realized - Sören had slept on the leash, and though they were largely under the covers when Elaine peeked in, Sören was still obviously on the leash and it had been wrapped around Anthony's hand, the one waving to his mother.

"Oh, god," Anthony said, facepalming as Sören howled.

"Well," Sören said with a shrug, "stranger things have happened."

"No. No they have not." Anthony turned beetroot.

But soon Anthony was exploding with laughter as well - mortified but still able to see the hilarity of the situation - and they barely contained themselves once they were downstairs, fully dressed, the leash back upstairs. Roger was reading the newspaper - answering Sören's curiosity if anyone read "dead tree" media anymore - and he watched them shuffle in to take places at the table. "Sleep well?" Roger asked.

"Yeah, we slept great," Sören said, with a naughty grin at Anthony, who smirked into his orange juice.

And Sören wondered then if he should, at some point, bring up his weird dreams with Anthony. But in the meantime, after breakfast he sat off in a corner of the garden while Anthony and Roger worked together, and began to draw on his WaCom tablet. If I ever tell him, I might as well have something to show him. For the first time he drew from his dreams, intending to make a full-color portrait, the silver-gold brother holding the dark-haired one on a leash of pearls as he was buried deep inside him.