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A Master's Fidelity (Ganymede Quartet Book 2.5)

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DECEMBER 19, 1900

On the Wednesday before the start of the winter holiday, Mr. Ross issued the invitation to his New Year’s Eve party to the entire group of masters as they stood shivering on the forecourt of the school. He then put his hand on Henry’s elbow and gave it a squeeze, saying, “You’ll come, too, won’t you Henry?”

Henry, who was plainly delighted to be singled out, said, “Yes, of course. Thank you, Charles,” and Mr. Ross clapped him on the shoulder, seeming pleased.

“There'll be so much liquor around,” Mr. Ross promised the group. “Last year, even the chambermaids got drunk. All the slaves, really. It was a madhouse. Believe me, we'll be able to get our hands on whatever we want.”

Standing nearby with the rest of the slaves, Martin heard this exchange and was full of questions.  Did Henry understand that Mr. Ross’ parties were invariably swapping parties? If he did understand, did that mean he intended to participate? It was surprising, as Henry had given no indication that his feelings about swapping slaves had changed of recent. It wasn’t Martin’s place to question him in any case, but he was very curious.

Tom leaned close and in a pressured whisper asked “Did you hear that? You’re coming to a party!”

“I heard.” Martin laughed. “Don’t get so excited, Tommy. Mr. Blackwell isn’t going to want to swap.” He was almost confident of this.

“Maybe he’s changed his mind,” Tom suggested. “Maybe he’s wondering what he’s been missing.”

“Maybe,” Martin agreed, “but I doubt it.” He did doubt it, but supposed it was possible.

Tom turned to the larger group. “Did you hear? Mr. Blackwell just agreed to go to Mr. Ross’ party.”

All around, boys turned to look at Martin, grinning, their expressions welcoming and interested.

Miles said, “We’ve all been hoping you’d join us one day, you know.”

Stuart elbowed him and said, “It’ll be like old times,” and Martin was suddenly breathless remembering certain pleasurable afternoons spent spread out and pinned beneath Stuart’s weight in his bed at Ganymede. He’d always had a nice time with Stuart.

Tom laughed and said, “You’re blushing.”

Martin felt his face grow warmer still, but shook his head. “Mr. Blackwell isn’t going to want to participate,” he insisted. “He’ll just be coming for the regular party, you’ll see.”

Henry called out, “Come on, Martin.”

Martin broke away from Tom and the rest of his friends and hurried to Henry’s side. He made no mention of the New Year’s party. Today was Little Miss’ birthday and they had plans. “Are you eager to see your sister, Sir? I can’t wait to see what she thinks of her present!”

Henry grinned bashfully. “Me, neither. Plus, there’ll be cake.”

The omnibus was crowded so they both stood in the aisle, and Henry took the opportunity to lean on Martin as the car swayed. Martin murmured an admonishment but couldn’t help smiling at Henry’s audacity. As the car rolled along, Martin considered his options. He could simply ask Henry if he realized it was a swap party, but that would imply that Martin thought Henry wasn’t bright enough to figure it out on his own. Also, Henry might well be aware. After all, Henry could decide to swap Martin at any time, and he was under no obligation to give him any notice regarding his intentions. This did seem unlikely, but he couldn’t rule it out. It was possible, too, that Henry didn’t realize, but that he would come to the conclusion on his own before the date of the party and decide not to attend. Or he might go anyway. He might want to see what he’d been missing.

When Martin had first come to Henry, he’d been eager to participate in swaps, eager to experience the variety, all the new bodies. He loved sex, loved being fucked, loved kissing and touching and all of the things that masters weren’t supposed to do for slaves, and he’d looked forward to receiving that kind of attention from some new group of boys. It had been hugely disappointing to discover that Henry had no intention of swapping and didn’t seem to want to fuck him, either. Martin was so good at sex, such a popular partner amongst his cohort at Ganymede, and he’d been so sure that his master would appreciate everything he could do, but Henry hadn’t touched him.

That first week in school, the slaves had all talked about what they liked to do and how they liked to do it, their classroom filled with a miasma of arousal, and for everyone else this humid, heady cloud dispersed after the first parties of the year, but for Martin there was never resolution on any front, and he felt this difference from the group very acutely.

He’d felt quite despondent during that initial month. It had seemed so unfair to have the master he wanted, but for that master to be indifferent to his charms. It made him question whether he did, in fact, have any charms at all. None of his new friends had reported similar difficulties with their masters. Ganymede had given him no training to prepare for such a situation. He’d thought about asking Mr. Tim’s advice, but was too ashamed to let the senior companion know of his abject failure in his role. Martin hadn’t known how he was going to live without affection, without sex, but asking Henry to give him leave to pursue outside arrangements would’ve been too much like admitting defeat, and he had not been ready to concede.

He’d made wishes, countless wishes, furtively writing them out under the guise of doing homework, and burning them out in the side yard during his dinner hour. The rest of the Blackwell slaves had noted his desperation, but had been kind enough not to question him. Over and over he wished Let Henry want me, and when that didn’t have any effect, he begged for scraps: Let Henry use me. He had a good imagination; any contact at all with Henry could be enough.

Eventually, of course, Henry had made up for all of that. It had been worth waiting to finally receive the full force of Henry’s affection. Henry had surprised him, so naturally adept and learning everything Martin wanted to teach him with ease. He had a perfect body, and such a beautiful cock, and wanted nothing more than to please Martin, which was a gift Martin felt sure he didn’t deserve. Martin had had sex with a great number of boys and men, but somehow it had never been like this before, never this intense. Perhaps it was just that Henry had needed so badly to be affectionate with someone, anyone; he was a lonely boy despite his friendships, and Martin imagined it had been years since anyone had touched him beyond a handshake or clap on the back.

It couldn’t just be that, though, Martin was nearly sure of it. Martin felt that so many things were shared between them when they fucked, such understanding, and he believed Henry felt this, too. Martin had come to Henry ready to offer his devotion, and with all that had happened between them, it was so easy to give it, to act it out, and it felt reciprocal, as if Henry might care for Martin more than he was meant to. Even if Martin was only imagining things, he could still be happy if his life would only continue like this, just like this. He was crazy about Henry, absolutely crazy. Henry’s looks were a refinement of everything Martin liked in a boy’s face. Henry was delicious like no other boy Martin had ever put his mouth on, and he need only catch a hint of Henry’s scent to become helplessly aroused. He would have never dared hope his master would do the things that Henry did so generously and with such passion. It more than made up for not participating in swaps.

Martin didn’t know how he felt about swapping at this point. If Henry decided he wanted to play, then of course Martin would go along with his decision without complaint, but he wouldn’t look forward to sex with any of the other masters, Henry’s friends. They were apparently all clumsy oafs—with the notable exception of handsome Mr. Ross—but the slaves were another story. Martin never asked for details, but somehow he learned so many anyway—who amongst his own friends had a big cock, who was the best at sucking, who actually preferred men, who was good at fucking or being fucked, who could put on a satisfying show for an audience. He went through his days with this information far in the back of his mind, just trivia, but on the slender chance that he was about to attend a swap party, suddenly these details seemed relevant.

Martin wasn’t sure that Henry even knew what happened at his friends’ parties. Henry never asked questions of either Martin or his own friends, and Martin knew better than to volunteer information. Henry liked to maintain the illusion that his friends were as kind to their slaves as he was to Martin, but of course that wasn’t true. Still, Algonquin parties were said to be both tamer and stricter than parties elsewhere in the city. Martin had heard stories of what boys at other schools got up to, and it sounded like masters elsewhere had more fun at their swaps—or more of what seemed like fun to Martin, at any rate. Boys from other schools weren’t policing one another’s behavior so rigidly. They were more playful, more daring.

The omnibus stopped and they got off with Mr. Briggs and Peter. Martin was looking forward to spending time with Little Miss, and seeing her reaction to the present he’d chosen with Henry, but with all this thinking about swapping, he felt flush with yearning and wished that there might somehow be time for some degree of intimacy before going up to the third floor for cake.

But there was no time. They hurriedly changed their clothes, Henry choosing the bottle green suit and the green-striped waistcoat he’d worn to the auction.

“I do so like you in this,” Martin told him, wondering if Henry remembered that this was what he’d worn when they’d met. Henry kissed him in reply, and it was a kiss that might have easily led somewhere, but Little Miss was waiting and Martin gently pushed Henry away.

DECEMBER 20, 1900

The next day at school, the others continued eager and interested in including Martin in swap talk at the meal break, but Martin held back. If Henry had made it clear what he intended, Martin would know what to do, but it was not clear at all, and Martin did not feel he could ask for clarification. If he knew Henry wanted to participate in the swap, then he could feel free to indulge in all manner of fantasies and to flirt with his friends, but if Henry did not want to play—which is what Martin suspected—then such fantasies would do nothing but lead to dissatisfaction and disgruntlement. He was so very happy with Henry, but he’d always liked novelty. He’d always liked to show off. He’d always liked being at the center of a pile of boys, crammed full and gasping, hands on every inch of his skin, and he’d never tell Henry that he missed it, but sometimes he did, just a little bit.

It was cold out in the yard, but they were all tired of being cooped up inside. Shivering in his overcoat, Martin leaned against the brick wall in between Sam and Tom. Poor Sam didn’t look well at all, but he wouldn’t talk about whatever Mr. Pettibone might be doing to him, and Martin knew better than to hope that this meant the torments had ceased.

Tom slipped his arm through Martin’s and leaned against him, companionable and a little possessive, and Martin had to admit he enjoyed Tom’s attention, his affection and little gallantries. He had never given Tom any reason to think it could go any further, though, and Tom knew better than to push.

The masters divided into two groups during breaks, Henry’s faction and Mr. Pettibone’s, but the slaves always mingled freely. Miles and Simon stood huddled together for warmth, both eager to tell Martin about swaps. Ralph and Peter played rock-paper-scissors, laughing out clouds of steam. Allen and Ray lounged against the wall at Tom’s other side and Will came to join them, Allen greeting him with an easy embrace. Stuart and Alex stood a few yards distant, having some private discussion. The rest—Julian, Howard, Harvey and Ollie—played catch with a ragged baseball, gloves off, fingers pale with cold. Mr. van Houten had called Davey out of the game and seemed to be giving him instruction on some point, their body language relaxed and friendly.

“Parties are almost always held at the Ross house,” Miles offered, drawing Martin’s attention back from the game. “The masters can do whatever they like there and no one interferes.” Martin already knew this information from past discussions. However, now that he might participate in a swap, everyone was especially keen to make sure he understood exactly how their faction’s parties were run.

“Mr. Ross’ parents are very indulgent,” Simon said of his master’s family. “They like to keep him close.”

Peter and Ralph came to join the discussion.

“There aren’t any little Rosses to bother the masters,” Peter pointed out. “Mr. Briggs would very much like to host parties, but there are too many little Briggses.”

Martin could see that this was something Mr. Briggs would want badly, liking to be in charge as he did, but he could also recognize the futility of trying to conduct a swap in the chaotic Briggs house. The younger boys and even Mr. Briggs’ little sister would be far too curious and unwilling to leave the older boys alone.

“Tom’s always in the middle of things,” Ralph remarked.

“Everyone likes to see him in action,” Simon said, “because he looks like a girl.”

“I don’t look like a girl,” Tom insisted. “I have more chest hair than you.”

“A bearded lady, then,” Simon countered, ducking away from Tom’s half-hearted punch.

“Tom gets used the hardest of any of us,” Stuart said. “They all want to fuck the prettiest face, of course. You’ll be in the same situation, I think, Martin, and it’ll be worse because you’re new.”

The game of catch ended and boys pulled their gloves onto stiff, cold hands as they came to join the conversation.

“Watch out for Mr. van Houten,” warned Will.

“Hey!” Davey took offense at this slight against his master.

“Not everyone likes it as rough as you do,” Simon told him, and there were general murmurs of agreement.

“Mr. Ross is especially nice,” Stuart remarked, and Simon smiled at him, grateful for the praise for his master.

“We try to keep Julian out of things whenever possible,” Ralph said, and everyone nodded, including Julian. “He’s horrible at sex.”

Julian shrugged, a little self-conscious. “I’m not attracted to men.”

Martin was shocked by this assertion. How could a House put a boy up as a companion if he didn’t like sex with men? It was false advertising, wasn’t it? A proper companion was willing and enthusiastic about sex with his master and any boys his master wanted to see him with. Hyperion, Julian’s House, was a newer House without Ganymede’s illustrious history and sterling reputation, and they’d surely remain second-tier if they were putting boys who disliked sex with men up for sale as companions.

“What about the masters?” Martin asked, “Don’t they—?”

“No one asks for me,” Julian said. “I don’t do a good job.” He shrugged again, as if it to say such things couldn’t be helped.

Julian’s attitude was so foreign to Martin that he almost wondered if the others were all playing a joke on him. How could anyone be so blasé about having such a terrible attitude toward his work? His life. His very reason for being. Martin had no personal interest in any of the other masters, but if Henry told him to suck any one of them, he’d go to his knees in a heartbeat and do the best he could to make that boy happy for Henry’s sake, so that the others would think Henry fortunate.

“But…but what about Mr. Lovejoy?” Martin asked plaintively. Surely, Julian felt differently about his own master!

Julian’s answer to everything seemed to be a shrug. “He gets angry at me,” he said. “He wants me to be more enthusiastic.”

Martin was horrified. He was quite sure there hadn’t been a single boy at Ganymede who would have ever considered shirking his duties, not even the lowliest of the Standard boys. He tried to arrange his face in a more neutral expression, but he found this revelation upsetting. He was offended on behalf of himself and the rest of the slaves who were dedicated and conscientious. He’d worked hard to earn his place at Ganymede because he’d wanted to be counted among the best, and he felt he would do anything Henry asked of him, anything at all, regardless of his own desires. If Julian wouldn’t do the same, he didn’t have the right to call himself a companion.

Martin lost track of the conversation, dwelling on Julian’s cavalier attitude. He’d known, of course, that not everyone was as devoted as himself, but he’d not expected anyone to be so unapologetically lax in performing his role. Julian was beautiful and smart and did well in classes, but what did that matter if he wouldn’t serve Mr. Lovejoy with his body?

Mr. Lovejoy did have a temper, but Martin supposed he wasn’t bad looking. What hardship could it be for Julian to just do what he was meant to do, after all? Of course, Martin was lucky to have Henry, and to find him so attractive. Most of his friends liked their masters well enough, and some even desired them, but he didn’t think any of them felt about their masters the way he felt about Henry. Martin had felt boundless affection for many different boys, and he’d been really in love once before, and he thought he might be falling in love with Henry now, too. He couldn’t say it, of course, but he could show it. He could make every action a sign. If Henry wanted to swap, Martin would perform wholeheartedly, doing his best to make sure that all Henry’s friends would envy him Martin’s superior service. Martin would prove to everyone that he’d been worth the extra money at auction.

The bell rang to end the postprandial recess and Martin made an effort to shake off his fretful, judgmental mood. He would have just a minute with Henry in the cloakroom before they returned to class, and he didn’t want to spend it dwelling on Julian. He and the rest of the slaves hurried indoors to await their masters.

In the cloakroom, they all put away their coats and hats and stood ready. Tom abandoned his position and came to stand by Martin. “It bothers you, doesn’t it?” Tom asked in a low voice, his lips close to Martin’s ear. “It bothers you that Julian doesn’t care about his duties.”

“It’s none of my business,” Martin admitted. “I feel badly for Mr. Lovejoy, though.”

You’re so devoted,” Tom said, his tone both teasing and admiring. “Mr. Blackwell must be the luckiest of all the masters.”

Martin thought this might be true. “Mr. Blackwell is easy to serve,” he offered. “I’m lucky, as well.” And then Henry was entering the cloakroom with his friends, and he gave Martin a beautiful smile, and Martin let go all thoughts of Julian. It wasn’t Martin’s job to worry about Mr. Lovejoy. All that mattered was Henry’s happiness, and his own happiness with Henry.

DECEMBER 21, 1900

Although Will’s master, Mr. Spence, and Allen’s master, Mr. Hollingsworth, didn’t associate at school, they’d lived next door to one another their entire lives and were indeed friends despite Mr. Hollingsworth’s alliance with the loathsome Mr. Pettibone. They had taken to swapping on weekends, just the two of them, trading Allen and Will and directing them to perform together. On Friday, the last day of school before the winter holiday, everyone stayed indoors out of the cold after lunch. The young masters loitered in the library, their slaves gathered together a few yards distant, and Will had many complimentary things to say about Allen, who he thought exceptionally skilled at sex.

“It’s too bad most of you fellows won’t get a chance to go a round with him,” Will said, putting an affectionate arm around Allen’s waist. “I feel lucky.” Other than Will, the only slaves who were having sex with Allen were the slaves of Mr. Pettibone’s friends.

“What does he do that’s so special?” Dick asked. He turned to Allen, “What are you doing, then?”

Allen shrugged, bashful. “I’m not sure, really.”

“He’s very considerate,” Sam offered. “Very generous. He pays attention.” He turned to Ray and said, “Don’t you think so, Ray?”

While it wasn’t some exciting technique, Martin certainly believed consideration, generosity and attentiveness went a long way.

Ray agreed with Sam, as did Ollie, Howard and Harvey, the other boys who regularly had sex with Allen at their faction’s parties.

“He’s got a really nice cock besides,” Howard said. “You do, Allen. It’s lovely.”

Allen blushed and smiled at his boots. “Thank you.”

“Get Mr. Spence to host a party,” Ralph suggested to Will. “Get him to invite Mr. Hollingsworth.”

“I always enjoyed a fuck with Allen back home,” Tom said. “Didn’t you, also?” He looked questioningly at Simon and then Miles, the other Orpheus slaves. “He was definitely the most popular boy in our cohort when it came to topping.”

Allen looked embarrassed but pleased nonetheless. “You were also popular, Tom.”

Tom laughed. “Not like you. Boys swooned over you, Allen. You got so many love notes.”

Simon smiled shyly and said, “I was a fan.”

Miles laughed and said, “Me, too. You were definitely my favorite, Allen.”

Although he was obviously grateful for the praise, Allen seemed a little uncomfortable with all the attention. All the rest of the slaves whose masters were not friends with Mr. Pettibone were scrutinizing him, picturing him without clothes, and considering his potential as a sex partner.

It was impressive how many fans Allen had, but auburn-haired Allen was not really Martin’s type; really, none of the others were Martin’s type. Henry was Martin’s type, so absolutely perfect for him with his black hair and golden skin and sleek muscles. He thought it very unlikely that Allen had a nicer cock than Henry’s. He was taken by the urge to tell the others about Henry, about how good he was at sex, better than even the best at Ganymede. He wanted them to know how lucky he was, how he was lavished with affection, what a good master he had. But he bit his tongue, as he always did. It wouldn’t be prudent to brag. Peter and Tom knew a little of the truth, but most of the others were under the impression that Martin’s relation to Henry was very nearly chaste.

“I wish our masters would try to get along as well as we all do,” Miles said, crossing to stand at Allen’s other side and also putting an arm around his waist. “It seems terribly unfair to be kept apart from an old friend just because of some grievance between masters.” He leaned his head on Allen’s shoulder, and Allen inclined his head to look at him, and for a moment Martin thought they might kiss, which would have been shocking.

There was an uncomfortable silence, so perhaps everyone had thought that a kiss was imminent, but then Allen and Miles separated with a burst of nervous laughter.

“What do you like, anyway, Martin?” Dick asked. “Do you like to be on the bottom or the top?”

Martin’s face grew hot. “Er, well…”

“Back at Ganymede, he was famous for being good at bottoming,” Stuart offered, which Martin supposed was true, but he didn’t think it was Stuart’s place to have mentioned it and gave him a stern glare.

“That’s lucky,” Ralph remarked. “So, there’s you, Simon and Will who like being on the bottom, then, and the rest of us just putting up with it.”

“If you could only have sex with Allen,” Will said rhapsodically, “you’d be much more enthusiastic about bottoming.”

“We’ll have to take your word for it, I guess,” Ralph said.

“Well, even putting Allen aside, any one of us is still a better fuck than a master, of course,” Dick remarked.

Martin felt this was not at all true, but was at pains not to say anything. It didn’t matter if all his friends thought Henry was lousy at sex.

“Well, I think Mr. Ross is quite nice,” Stuart said, and he blushed rather prettily when everyone turned to look at him. “He’s…more skilled than the others.”

Again, Simon liked Stuart’s praise for his master. “He makes an effort,” he agreed.

“None of the rest of us will ever know,” Miles pointed out, “since he only ever wants Stuart at parties.” He elbowed Martin and added, “Mr. Ross is the only one who’ll fuck a slave in front of his friends. The others only get their cocks sucked, but Mr. Ross bends Stuart right over and isn’t shy at all. He’s practically like a slave himself in that way.”

“Simon’s lucky,” Stuart said, still blushing.

“I am,” Simon agreed, a little smug. “Mr. Ross is very interested in my satisfaction.”

“What’s Mr. Blackwell like?” Miles asked. “You never say, Martin. Does he have a nice cock?”

It occurred to Martin with bracing abruptness, then, that if he was to be swapped and put on display, Henry would necessarily be free to be serviced by any of Martin’s friends, and Martin adamantly did not want this to happen. Henry was his, his very own, even though he knew better than to be possessive. It wasn’t his place. It wasn’t his right.

“It would be a shame if he didn’t,” Dick remarked. “Since the rest of him is so handsome.”

At the thought of another slave touching Henry, Martin went numb. He heard everything at a remote distance, an annoying buzzing of flies. His hands shook with an angry tremor and he clenched them into fists and shoved them deep in his pockets. His jealousy was an unwelcome, unprecedented surprise.

Everyone was looking at Martin, wanting to know about Henry’s cock, and there was no good reason not to tell them. It was only polite to let them know what they might expect should Henry decide he wanted someone else’s mouth on his cock.

Martin cleared his throat. “Very nice,” he admitted. It was perfect, in fact, and it was his. He would go along with whatever Henry might want to do, but he wouldn’t like it. It would, in fact, break his heart.

The rest were still looking at him, waiting for more details, but Martin didn’t want to share. He would prefer to talk about anything else. He didn’t want to be swapped if it meant sharing Henry. He didn’t want any of his friends to know Henry the way he did.

The idea of having more partners for himself was interesting, a little enticing, but he’d already had so many different partners that having still more carried negligible emotional weight. It would be fun to have sex with his friends, nothing more. No other boy could have the slightest claim on him, after all. But the thought of Henry, his Henry, who had only ever been with him, fucking Tom’s mouth, or Stuart’s, and groaning with pleasure…oh, how he hated that idea! Martin had had experience enough to know that Henry was the one he wanted, but what if Henry discovered he liked some other boy’s mouth better? So many of the masters liked Stuart’s mouth, though in Martin’s opinion Stuart wasn’t particularly skilled; still, what if Henry wanted to try what his friends spoke so highly of? What if Henry decided he wanted to fuck one of the others?

Martin felt sick. He glanced over to see if Henry was needful of anything Martin might provide, but Henry was laughing with Mr. Briggs and Mr. Ross and seemed completely content. Martin excused himself and left the library for the quiet of the hall. He was bent over the water bubbler, eyes closed, taking deep swallows of cool water when Tom came up behind him, soft footsteps.

“Martin? Are you all right?”

Martin took a deep breath, still bent over the bubbler. He wanted to tell Tom everything, tell him how close he really was with Henry. He wanted to tell Tom he didn’t want to share his master with him or any of the others, that Henry was his and his alone. But he couldn’t say anything of the kind for fear that broadcasting his own inappropriate thoughts and insecurities would reveal too much of Henry, as well.

“I don’t like talking about Mr. Blackwell,” was all he felt comfortable saying.

“You’re very protective of him,” Tom said soothingly, rubbing his back. “He’s lucky to have you.” 

~o0o~

There was a strange scene in the cloakroom at the end of the day, Sam abandoning his post to deliver a passionate kiss to his best friend Ray, which put the entire room into a panic. It would have been a problem if they’d been seen by any teachers, and it wasn’t the sort of risk any of them would normally take, so for meek little Sam to do something so bold was unsettling. Kissing without the sanction of masters was strictly forbidden, and there was no question that Mr. Pettibone would gleefully punish Sam for such a transgression.

Ray stood with his hand to his mouth staring at Sam, his master’s coat hanging from his hand and trailing on the floor. Sam smiled and gave a little shrug and returned to his post as if nothing unusual had taken place.

In the moments before their masters came for their coats, all of the slaves had urgent questions about the kiss, but Sam was not forthcoming about his motive or reason. He said it was just something he felt like doing, but offered no further explanation, instead wishing them all a Merry Christmas. And then their masters came into the cloakroom, rowdy and talkative, and there was no more time for questions.

~o0o~

Henry and Martin went home to a new Pals and thus a new Drake’s Progress, and sharing the story and then some particularly generous sexual attention from Henry went a long way toward improving Martin’s mood. However, he couldn’t sleep for worrying, and as he lay curled at Henry’s side, he tried not to think about how beautiful Tom was, how he had seen Henry looking at Tom with a sort of resentful lust. Would Henry want to take the opportunity to use Tom? He knew that Mr. Caldwell was very generous with Tom’s body. If Tom were to suck Henry’s cock, he’d surely appreciate its superior qualities and be jealous of Martin. Martin didn’t know if he could even bear to stay friends with Tom if Tom came to know Henry in that way.

Restless and irritable, he squirmed to get comfortable and roused Henry, who made a Hmm? sound and blinked in confusion. Martin settled guiltily and petted Henry’s chest until he was sleeping again, breathing easy. He shouldn’t be like this, so fiercely possessive and unreasonable. He’d never been this way about any other boy, not even the boys he’d most loved at Ganymede. But those boys had been like him, professionally promiscuous, and there were never any expectations of fidelity. Henry was different. Henry could belong to Martin completely, if he wanted to, if only he would make that choice.

Martin had known boys at Ganymede who had been possessive of their friends’ bodies, prone to jealous spats and tears, but that had never been his way, so these forceful feelings of ownership came as a shock. Until his lunchtime realization that his friends might serve Henry, and his subsequent desperate fury at the prospect, Martin had not even been aware he had the capacity to want a boy all to himself. It was wrong, all wrong. He might as well be untrained if he was going to behave like this. But as wrong as it was, he wouldn’t fault his feelings. The connection he shared with Henry deserved to be honored and protected. They belonged to each other—they’d both said the words—and it meant a great deal more than sex to Martin.

Martin knew full well that a slave could never ask for a master’s fidelity, and a good slave wouldn’t think of asking for it in the first place, but he hoped Henry would be sentimental, that he would recognize that it was Martin who had first shown him every form of pleasure and pledge his allegiance accordingly. Henry might possibly do this of  his own volition, but Martin certainly couldn’t ask it of him.

Martin lay awake worrying until the wee hours. Henry had some amorous dream that made him hard, made him paw Martin greedily and whimper. Martin arced into his touch and reached for his stiff prick, but Henry only sighed and slipped further into sleep, and it seemed imprudent, even selfish, to consider waking Henry in search of the reassurance sex might provide. Martin made himself relax, taking deep breaths, and drew Henry close. Whatever changes might come, tonight Henry was here with him and no one else, and he would take comfort from that. He lay awake petting Henry’s head and shoulders perhaps another hour, finally falling into an exhausted sleep near dawn.

DECEMBER 25, 1900

At Christmas, it was reassuring that Henry did not want to swap with his cousins. Jesse Wilton and Eli Carmichael were both handsome, as were their slaves, and again Martin felt he would have no compunction about servicing any of the others, master or slave, if Henry wanted such a thing to happen. Still, he hated the idea of either Mr. Wilton’s Russ or Mr. Carmichael’s Owen touching Henry, tasting him, putting their hands on his skin. It was a dirty, sick secret, this crazed possessiveness; he wasn’t really a Superior boy at all, he was substandard.

He had enjoyed meeting a Ganymede boy again, though, even if he didn’t want to share Henry with him. Russ had told him some things about Lawton parties that made Martin wish they went to that school instead, but Lawton was an academically demanding place and Henry’s wasn’t really the sort of intelligence that made for impressive test results.

The cousins were all charming people, and their slaves were likewise welcoming. Clearly, the reunion with his uncle had been the high point of the party for Henry, but for Martin Jesse Wilton had proven most memorable of all Henry’s extended family. Mr. Wilton was shockingly affectionate and demonstrative with Russ, seemingly without concern for how his performance might be received, and Martin thought his behavior delightfully scandalous. However, as interesting as he found Mr. Wilton’s relation with Russ, he hoped Henry would not take cues from his cousin in this regard. Martin did not think Henry had the personality to carry off such flagrant behavior; it suited him better to be circumspect.

What did appeal, however, was Mr. Wilton’s proposal that Henry watch him receive oral pleasure from Russ, and the suggestion that he would like to watch Martin serve Henry, as well. It was only the idea of Henry having physical contact with other boys that Martin didn’t like; he was enthusiastic about the prospect of voyeuristic games, and hoped Henry might be given another opportunity to play in the future. Henry had been stunned by his cousin’s offer, but Martin was quite sure he had been curious—and tempted—as well. 

DECEMBER 29, 1900

As the New Year drew closer, Martin started to worry about the potential for jealousy on Henry’s part. What if Henry asked him to perform at the party but then regretted his choice? Though it made him feel disloyal to think so, Martin wasn’t sure he could count upon Henry to be fair if he made decisions that he later came to regret. Considering how unhappy Henry had been to learn about some of the sex that Martin had had before they even met, Martin did not trust Henry to be reasonable about sex that he might have with other partners now, even at Henry’s behest.

Saturday, two days before Mr. Ross’ party, following a late lunch, they lay curled together in Henry’s bed and Martin made a halting attempt to ask Henry what he intended to do.

“Henry?”

“Hmm?” Henry nuzzled Martin’s neck and drew him close, stroking his back and wriggling closer still.

“Are you looking forward to Mr. Ross’ party?” Martin tried to make his voice sound light and without care, but he thought he came off a little constricted, a little nervous.

“What? Oh, sure.” Henry kissed Martin’s throat and pushed on his shoulder, rolling him onto his back. “I haven’t been to a party in awhile,” he noted. He ran his hands up and down Martin’s sides and Martin stretched out long, arms overhead and toes pointed, to better enjoy the contact.

“Why is that?”

“Why what?” Henry bent and flicked at Martin’s nipple with his tongue, and each lick sent a sizzling bolt of electricity to Martin’s cock.

“Oh! Why haven’t you been to a party?”

“I guess they didn’t think I’d want to come,” Henry said. “But I’m excited to go to this one.” He bent his head and licked the other nipple and reached down between Martin’s legs to take tender hold of his prick.

God, his hand felt so good. It was just a hand, so why did it feel so amazing? “Wh-why is that? Why are you excited?” Was it because he wanted to swap?

“I’ve always liked the idea of starting fresh at the New Year,” Henry said with a shrug. “It’ll be nice to spend it with friends.” He sat on his heels with his hard cock jutting up and Martin reached out to pet it, slick and silky. “Do you want to suck me?” Henry asked hopefully. “Because I want to suck you.”

“Yes,” Martin said firmly. “I definitely want that.”

Henry lay down on his side and Martin got into position beside him. The smell of Henry’s wet cock made Martin hard, made his mouth water. He began to shiver and couldn’t stop shaking, like he was some inexperienced child who’d never sucked a cock before. Even when he’d been an inexperienced child, he didn’t think he’d ever felt this out of control about the smell of another boy, about any other boy’s body. He’d been crazy about Henry from the moment he first saw him, and it didn’t seem to ever let up.

Taking into account his thorough training, Martin was a little embarrassed by his giddy eagerness, but Henry didn’t judge. Henry didn’t know anything could be different. Henry didn’t understand how remarkable this was, the desperate way Martin wanted him. Henry wanted him, too, that much was plain, but Henry didn’t have anyone to compare to. If Henry was curious, if he let another slave suck his cock, he could very possibly come to prefer another boy’s service over Martin’s, and then where would Martin be?

Henry licked the head of Martin’s cock and Martin moaned, deliciously ashamed of how lost he sounded, how needy. Tension coiled deep in his gut, building at the base of his cock, and he wanted to thrust hard into Henry’s mouth, just rudely shove into the silky wet heat of his throat. Henry reached around and rubbed a wet fingertip over Martin’s hole and Martin did push his hips forward with a little grunt, and Henry gagged and let Martin’s cock slide out of his mouth.

“I’m sorry,” Martin offered. “I didn’t mean to choke you.”

“No, it’s okay. But won’t you suck mine, too?” Henry sounded so wistful, so sweet, and Martin was behaving selfishly.

“Sorry, yes, of course I will.” He’d let himself be distracted by how good it felt, but he needed to pay attention and do his part. Martin took hold of Henry’s prick and gave it a squeeze, loving the density of it, the thickness and weight. Henry had only the barest understanding of how beautiful he was, what a nice cock he had. Martin never really talked about Henry anyway, but he would definitely not ever be telling his friends about Henry’s cock in any detail. They’d all think he was making up stories, anyway.

Martin licked the wet head of Henry’s perfect cock and it flexed in his fist as Henry groaned. Delicate skin, soft as suede, stretched taut over flesh surging with blood. He tasted like salt and iron, primal and elemental. Martin sucked on the head and rubbed it with his tongue, swallowing all Henry’s slickness, and took him deep.

It was easy to choke on a cock like Henry’s, and Martin liked to push himself to a place that felt risky, a little scary. He took Henry’s cock deep and Henry grabbed a handful of his hair, holding his head in place, and Martin struggled to stay calm while his body fought for air, gasping and spasming around the heavy length in his throat. Henry moaned with Martin’s prick in his mouth and the vibration made Martin shiver. He felt overwhelmed, so much sensation; the muscles in his throat clutched at the head of Henry’s cock, and his hips jerked to push his own prick further into Henry’s mouth. He began to move in accordance with the dictates of these warring sensations, and he writhed and clung to Henry, wanting to be buried in Henry, wanting to have more of Henry inside himself. 

Henry slid his fingers into his mouth alongside Martin’s prick and got them wet, and Martin began to shake again, knowing what was coming. Henry rubbed his wet fingertips over Martin’s hole and Martin whimpered, pleading sounds, desperate encouragement. Henry pushed inside, two fingers to start, just as Martin liked, and Martin groaned around Henry’s cock and squirmed, trying to force Henry’s fingers deeper inside. He felt like he was coming unstrung; everything felt so good, and he felt so many different things: velvety wet suction around his cock, and raw, harsh pleasure from Henry’s fingers moving in his ass.

Henry had asked Martin to suck him, and maybe he’d intended to finish that way, but Martin needed Henry’s cock in his ass, filling and stretching him. He let Henry’s cock slide out of his mouth and unsteadily asked, “Please, Henry, will you fuck me? I need you to fuck me.” His voice hitched, almost a sob, begging.

Henry pulled off Martin’s prick. “I’ll do whatever you want,” he said, as he always did. He was such a good master, generous and undemanding, and Martin was so indulged. He was lucky, so lucky. If Henry wanted another boy’s mouth on his cock, how could Martin begrudge him that?

“On your back,” Henry said, giving Martin’s shoulder a little shove. He got up on his knees between Martin’s thighs and leaned over him to dig in the nightstand drawer for the oil bottle.

Martin lay trembling, his cock leaking onto his belly, knees up, hands gripping the backs of his thighs, spread open for Henry. Shameless and wanton, willing to give Henry anything he might want, anything at all.

Henry sat back on his heels and oiled himself. He contemplated Martin’s hole a pensive moment, then bent and licked him and Martin’s hips jerked hard as he cried out. Henry put his hands on the backs of Martin’s thighs and held him still and licked him over and over, shivers racing over Martin’s skin with each swipe of Henry’s tongue across his hole, and he was begging, please, Henry, please. Henry lifted his head and smiled at Martin, who felt quite beyond smiling, desperate and breathing hard through parted lips. He wanted to say so many things to Henry, inappropriate things. He tried to communicate some of his extravagant emotion with his eyes, beseeching.

Henry oiled his fingers and prepared Martin quickly. His cock was shiny with oil and his own fluids. He lined himself up and tilted his hips, and Martin moaned aloud as Henry slid into his body, little thrusts as he eased his way in. He felt so good, so perfect, like he’d been made to fit inside Martin. Henry knelt close, the muscles in his thighs flexing against Martin’s ass as he fucked him, and he felt so strong and solid slamming into him. The stretch felt incredible; the drag raw and intense, each stroke of Henry’s cock making him quake.

“Oh god, Henry, Henry, please…” He felt so desperate, almost sick with wanting, and he felt on the verge of coming, his pulse pounding in his ears and throbbing through his cock, everything feeling urgent and wild. He dug his fingers into Henry’s wrists, holding on, buffeted and battered by steady surges of pleasure as Henry pounded into him. The feeling crested, sharpening to a razor’s edge, and he shuddered still and came, calling Henry’s name as his cock pulsed hot jets of semen across his belly.

Henry watched him come and moaned, his cock swelling harder in Martin’s ass, always especially pleased when Martin came without either of them touching his cock. He fucked Martin a few more strokes, a few more hard slams, and Martin felt the hot gush as Henry came deep inside his body, cock jerking hard as he let loose the wounded sounds that made Martin desperate to soothe and protect him.

Henry lowered himself to lie on Martin’s chest, his face against Martin’s neck, and Martin wrapped his arms around Henry’s back and held onto him tightly. What they had was so special, and he wanted to tell Henry that it wouldn’t be like this with anyone else, wanted to insist it, but it wasn’t his place to do any such thing. He already got so much from Henry that wasn’t owed to him, to any boy in his position, and he should be grateful for it and not expect anything more.

Just me, he wished. Want only me.

He was grateful to his body for responding so well, so fortuitously, to Henry’s efforts. Achieving release without the use of hands had happened to him at Ganymede, but not often, and he knew it never happened to most boys at all. He could try to impress upon Henry how unusual it was that it happened so frequently between them, but it would require talking to Henry about his past experiences, and he felt that could easily backfire. Also, Henry might conclude that it was simply his special cock making this happen rather than the combination of himself and Martin, and Martin wasn’t sure that wasn’t actually the case. It could be that any boy Henry fucked would come without touching himself because Henry was so good at sex and his cock was so perfect.

Henry kissed his neck and asked, “Can you breathe? Am I squashing you?”

“I’m a little squashed,” Martin admitted. “I should clean us up anyway.”

Henry sighed but let him up, and Martin went to the bathroom on shaky legs and got his basin out of the cupboard. He washed quickly at the sink, wiping Henry’s semen off his ass and thighs and his own off his chest. He took his basin and cloth back into the bedroom and sat at Henry’s hip. Henry had his forearm over his eyes, but he lifted it and looked up at Martin and smiled.

“Hey.”

Martin returned the smile. “Hey, yourself.”

He reached for Henry’s hand and Henry let him take it, his fingers relaxed as Martin cleaned them. He took Henry’s cock in hand and pushed the foreskin back and washed it thoroughly, and it stiffened a little at the contact, uncoiling lazily, and Martin bent down to kiss the tip quickly, embarrassed by his affectionate impulse. Henry had absolutely no idea how special his cock was.

It occurred to him suddenly that maybe Henry’s cock wouldn’t be so special to another boy. Maybe he really was made for Martin. Maybe another boy would find Henry’s body and performance ordinary—though it was hard for Martin to imagine this, what with the size and shape of his cock, its aesthetic superiority, and the clean, musky taste and scent of it. Martin had had familiarity with a great number of cocks, and Henry’s was, in his opinion, the best one by far. That seemed like an objective fact, but perhaps it was more open to opinion than Martin believed.

“You seem worried,” Henry said, touching his thigh. “What’s the matter?”

Martin made himself smile and shook his head. “Just thinking a bit. Nothing’s wrong.” He set his basin aside. “Did you want to get up, or would you rather nap?”

Henry stretched and made a jaw-cracking yawn. “Come lie down with me. We’ll sleep until it’s time for your dinner.”

Martin went into Henry’s arms and fit himself against Henry’s side. It was plain he wasn’t going to get any answers out of Henry about swapping unless he asked directly, and he couldn’t bring himself to do that. He was supposed to be the best of the best, and as such it wasn’t his place to question what Henry might do. It wasn’t for him to bargain or argue.

He waited until Henry was asleep and dared to whisper in his ear Want only me, making a wish. Henry sighed in his sleep and tightened his hold on Martin, burying his face in Martin’s neck. Even in his most extravagant, improbable dreams about his life, Martin had never imagined there could be anything so meaningful between a master and himself. Henry had flaws, of course, many flaws, but he was perfect for Martin regardless, and he couldn’t help but think that he was uniquely suited to Henry. He could only hope that Henry would feel the same and act accordingly.

Want only me.

DECEMBER 31, 1900

On New Year’s Eve, upon their arrival at the Rosses’ house, Henry was surprised that their footman knew Mr. Briggs, but Martin was not. Because Henry made it a point to avoid swap talk, Martin knew what Henry did not, which was that most of his friends were in the habit of gathering at Mr. Ross’ house each weekend to trade their slaves. The Rosses’ footman knew Mr. Briggs because he welcomed him into the Ross home on a regular basis. The parties were usually held at Mr. Ross’ house because he was a spoiled and indulged only child and his parents let him do most anything he liked. If Henry had only wanted to participate, his own huge, empty house with all its unused parlors and bedrooms might have been an ideal location for parties, as well. Martin had thought these things, but he had never discussed them with Henry and never would, not unless Henry broached the topic himself.

While Mr. Ross was welcoming his friends, Simon was welcoming the slaves. He was a little drunk, pressing a wet kiss to Martin’s cheek.

“We’re all so excited you’re here,” Simon confided, squeezing his hand.

“Don’t get too excited,” Martin cautioned. “You know Mr. Blackwell has strong opinions about swapping.”

“But he’s here,” Tom said, emerging from the crowd to put his arm around Martin’s waist. “That’s a good sign, I think.” His breath smelled of gin and his touch was a little more proprietary than was seemly.

“I think he just wanted to come to the party,” Martin explained. He was almost certain this was the case. “I don’t think he’ll swap.”

With a glance over his shoulder at the masters, Tom leaned close and breathed Martin in. “You always smell so good,” he said. “Is it cologne…?”

“It’s just soap,” Martin said, giving Tom a firm but friendly shove. “Don’t smell me, Tommy.”

“Why not?”

Because I’m not for you, Martin thought, but he said nothing and only shook his head. “Have you had a lot to drink already?”

Tom laughed. “I’ve had my share.” He gave Martin a squeeze and waved at Julian, who held an open flask, the cap dangling on a chain. “Julie! Bring that here!” He turned to Martin again. “You should drink, too. Get in the proper mood.”

He wouldn’t get drunk, but he would let himself drink a little bit, just enough to calm his jitters. He was almost positive Henry wasn’t going to swap, and perhaps he should have steeled himself to ask and have settled things once and for all, but now it was too late, and he’d just have to go along with whatever Henry decided. He took the flask from Tom’s hand and put it to his lips, tilting it back. Gin burned going down, tears stinging his eyes.

“Feel better?” Tom asked, smiling.

He made himself smile back. “Better,” he agreed, handing the flask to Ralph. It would be fine, he told himself. He would make sure it was a good party for Henry. He would do whatever Henry might want him to do, and surely Henry would continue to appreciate him and his good service, and he’d remain Henry’s favorite no matter what else happened, no matter how good any of Martin’s friends might be at sucking cock.

He couldn’t bear the idea of Tom, his very own Tom, touching Henry’s skin or tasting his prick, but if Henry wanted anyone, it would be Tom, he was quite certain of it. Martin loved Tom as a friend, but he thought he might easily hate him if he bent over for Henry. Martin knew full well it wasn’t as though Tom would have any say in the matter, but he wanted him to refuse anyway.

Mr. Ross recruited some of his friends to infiltrate the adult party to steal liquor, and when they returned with their plunder, there were bottles for the slaves as well as the masters. Will came to stand before them with a bottle of gin, which Tom took from his hand. “I’m excited Mr. Blackwell’s here,” Will said, and, judging from his avid expression, this was quite true. “I think he’s so handsome.”

“He is,” Martin agreed stiffly.

“Put in a good word for me, will you? I’m sure he’ll go for this one—” here he nodded at Tom “—because they all do, but I’m actually enthusiastic.”

Martin would definitely not be doing this, but he nodded grudgingly anyway.

I’m enthusiastic, too,” Tom insisted. “He’s very good-looking, and he must be at least a little skilled, since he seems to keep you happy.” He gave Martin a friendly nudge with his hip.

Martin did not take the opportunity to confirm or deny this assertion, but instead took the bottle from Tom’s hand and drank deeply.

Simon came in search of the bottle and then lingered. “Mr. Ross is very interested in you,” he said to Martin. “Well, they all are, of course, because they’ve had to wait so long, but since this is his party, he’s going to want first crack at you.”

“Mr. Blackwell won’t want to swap,” Martin said, shaking his head.

“He’s here, though,” Simon pointed out. “It’s not like he doesn’t know what sort of get-together this is.”

Martin thought Henry’s capacity for not-knowing was quite vast, but he wouldn’t share that with his friends. “I think he just wanted to come for the regular party,” Martin explained.

“I’ll tell you about Mr. Ross if you’d like,” Simon continued. “Not that there’s anything to worry about. He’s got a nice cock and he’s really very considerate.”

“The one to worry about is Mr. van Houten,” Tom remarked. “He can be rough.”

“I don’t like his dirty talk,” Will put in. “It’s so mean.”

“It’s a little depressing,” Tom agreed.

“He called me a ‘filthy little spunk-guzzler,’” Will said. “I didn’t know whether to laugh or be insulted!”

Speaking in a low voice so that the others had to lean close, Simon said, “Davey likes it. He likes being talked to like that!”

They all glanced surreptitiously at Davey, who was speaking animatedly with Dick and Alex.

“Well, if he likes it, I guess that’s all right for him…” Will said, his voice trailing off.

Regardless of House, they’d all been trained to be accepting of any sexual peccadillo a master might have, but, naturally, they still had preferences of their own. The idea of Henry spewing mean-spirited dirty talk was laughable, and Martin nearly did laugh, but bit his lip instead and waited his turn for the nearly-empty bottle.

Mr. Ross called out, “Simon! Hey, Si!”

Simon’s spine straightened and his head came up, alert. “Sir?” He nodded his goodbyes to the group and made his way through the crowd to his master’s side.

“It’s starting, then,” Will said, and he was right. Simon disappeared behind the connecting door with Mr. Ross, and they were followed in short order by Mr. Townsend and Dick, Mr. Lovejoy and Julian, and Mr. Maxwell and Alex.

Martin wondered if Henry had noticed the exodus. It did not look as though he had. He was laughing at something his friends were telling him and sipping whiskey from a fingerprinted glass. He wished it was done for a slave to drink with his master at a party like this. He wished he could sit close to Henry and whisper in his ear and remind him of what they had together, how they belonged to each other. He wished he could ask whether or not Henry intended to let Tom suck his cock.

He couldn’t do anything. He would just have to wait.  

Martin was feeling a little drunk. When a fresh bottle came his way, he passed it along without sipping. Tom took a swig and handed the bottle off to Peter, and then it was just the two of them, Tom angling his body slightly to separate Martin from the others. He leaned close, radiating heat and intention, and said, “It’s no secret that I’ve liked you all along, Martin.”

No, it wasn’t a secret.

“I’ve wanted you since the day we met,” Tom offered, “and I know you won’t say so out of loyalty to Mr. Blackwell, but I think you’ve wanted me, too.”

Martin did not answer, but felt his cheeks grow hot. Tom wasn’t really Martin’s type, but his sort of beauty transcended type. His fine-boned face was enigmatic and perfectly androgynous but for the faint blue shadow on his cheeks. His cat-green eyes, jet black hair, and milky skin made for an arresting picture. People were always turning to look at Tom, eyes following him everywhere he went. His appeal wasn’t lost on Martin. It didn’t matter, though, if he might chance to want Tom because Martin belonged to Henry, and he would do whatever Henry wanted, and Henry would not want him to flirt with Tom or talk about what kind of sex they could have. Henry would be so wounded if Martin were to indulge Tom’s fantasies even a little bit.

Tom sighed. “You won’t say,” he repeated.

“I’m very devoted to Mr. Blackwell,” Martin reminded him. “You know this, Tom.”

“Listen,” Tom said, standing too close. “Listen, Martin. When was the last time you had your cock sucked?” He did not wait for Martin to answer, but said, “It must have been back on your farm before you came to the city, right?”

With Henry not participating in swaps, this wasn’t an unreasonable guess. In fact, Martin had sucked his friend Charlie’s cock hunkered down in their seat on the train into the city, and then Charlie had gratefully returned the favor.

“I love to suck cock,” Tom said, his lips brushing Martin’s ear. “I’m good at it—ask anyone. Ask Simon or Ralph. Ask—”

Martin laughed and put his hand on Tom’s chest, pushing him gently away. “I believe you.”

“I’d be happy to suck you,” Tom continued, slurring his words. “I want to do it.”

Martin shook his head. “Mr. Blackwell isn’t going to want to swap, Tommy.”

“Anything you want me to do, I’ll do for you,” Tom insisted. “Things I won’t do for anyone else without being ordered, I’ll do for you just for the asking.” His voice taking on a tinge of frustration, he said, “Don’t you miss being kissed, Martin? Don’t you miss being wanted?”

If indeed Martin had spent these last four months having strictly delimited contact with a clumsy master, he’d be panting for closeness with a boy, a trained boy, who would know how to touch him and please him, but his situation was different. He had Henry. Henry, who knew Martin’s body like it was his own and treated it with such reverence. Henry, who did all the things Martin liked best without even being asked.

“I don’t miss anything, Tommy,” Martin said firmly, thinking that Tom was too drunk to examine that remark very closely. “I’m happy with Mr. Blackwell,” he insisted.

“Stuart says you’re an amazing fuck,” Tom said very close to Martin’s ear, the tickle of his breath making Martin shiver. “He says that back home everyone loved to have you on the bottom. He says he’s never been with anyone else like you.”

“I doubt that’s true,” Martin demurred, pushing Tom gently away again. Tom’s desire, his hot breath, and the hints of desperation and aggression, were arousing in spite of Martin’s determination to be loyal to Henry, and he was inconveniently hard. He glanced over quickly and saw that Henry was sitting on the sofa, sipping from a nearly-full glass of whiskey. Was he drinking too much? Martin felt it was his responsibility to keep Henry from getting too drunk, but wasn’t sure how he could manage that under the circumstances. He certainly couldn’t walk across the room with a hard cock and scold Henry in front of his friends.

Tom leaned close again, “He says you love to have someone’s mouth on your ass. Is that so?”

Martin bristled. “Stuart never did that for me.” Why was Stuart being so forthcoming, so inconveniently talkative?

“Is it true, though, that you love it?” Tom gripped Martin’s arm tightly and his lips brushed Martin’s ear, lingering, almost a kiss. “I’ll do it for you. I’ll put my mouth anywhere you want it.”

“Tommy…” Martin frowned and pulled away, uncomfortable with this entire conversation.

“Everyone wants to see us together, you know. Masters and slaves alike. Because we’re the beauties, see?”

They would make an especially nice picture together, Martin was aware of that.

“I’ve got a nice cock,” Tom said in a loud whisper. “Nice and thick. Little bit of an upward curve. Everyone I’ve ever been inside has told me he liked it.” Tom pressed himself against Martin’s side, warm and sleek and bold, and Martin felt guilty that he stood still for this treatment for even a few moments. Martin couldn’t help it; he felt a surge of arousal at Tom’s words and shuddered. He shouldn’t be listening to Tom talk about his nice cock because if Henry knew, it would make him so unhappy. Henry wouldn’t understand that it was just slave talk, idle seduction; Henry wouldn’t understand that Tom was just drunk and meant nothing—or, at least, very little—by it.

“You have to stop talking like this, Tommy,” Martin told him, trying to sound stern and pushing him away yet again. “Mr. Blackwell would be very angry if he could hear you.”

“Angry at me or angry at you?”

“Both!” Martin snapped. “He might not let us be friends if he knew the kind of things you’re saying.”

“Why? Is he that jealous?”

Martin pressed his lips together in a tight line, frustrated. “Mr. Blackwell is very possessive, as is his right.”

“Idon’t think of you just as property to own,” Tom scoffed. “You’re a person to me, you know—you might be my favorite person.”

“Mr. Blackwell definitely considers me a person, also,” Martin insisted coldly. “Please don’t presume anything about my relation with my master.”

Hearing the acid in Martin’s tone, Tom changed tactics. “I’m sorry, Martin. I know you’re fond of Mr. Blackwell, and there must be reasons for that. It’s just that you never talk about him—”

“He’s very private,” Martin said, slightly mollified. “I won’t ever be talking about him, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that he’s a good master.”

They were quiet a moment, and Tom sighed and took Martin’s hand, playing with his fingers.

“He’s lucky to have you, you know.”

“I’m lucky, as well,” Martin insisted, his tone making it clear he wanted the subject closed.

Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Franklin beckoned to Tom and Ralph, and Tom tore himself away from Martin with obvious reluctance, maintaining eye contact as long as he could manage.

“I’ll see you inside, I hope,” Tom said, his yearning raw and apparent, and Martin felt bad for him because he was quite sure Tom would be embarrassed later for having worn his heart on his sleeve. Martin knew very well what it was like to want someone who didn’t want you back, though in his own case it had all been a misunderstanding and Henry had come around in the end. He wouldn’t be doing the same for Tom, though, not unless Henry wanted it, and in all honesty he couldn’t imagine Henry ever wanting such a thing.

Peter came to stand by Martin and handed him the gin bottle. Martin took a little sip and let it sit in his mouth, stinging his tongue.

“Tom’s going to be so disappointed if you don’t play,” Peter remarked. “But I think you’re right, and Mr. Blackwell isn’t going to want to share.”

It was just the two of them and their masters in the room now, everyone else having passed through to the real party.

Mr. Briggs was saying, “…maybe he thought you'd have changed your mind about swapping by now. If he'd have asked me, I'd have told him not to invite you. No one needs you being all judgmental, Henry. We’re not doing anything wrong.”

Scowling, Henry drained his glass. “I’m not being judgmental,” he insisted. “Just because I don't want to share Martin doesn't mean I care what the rest of you do with your slaves.”

Mr. Briggs did not seem to believe this and flapped a dismissive hand in Henry’s direction.  

The connecting door opened and Mr. DeWitt leaned into the room. “Are you two coming?” There were shouts and laughter behind him.

Mr. Briggs turned in his chair and said, “Just a few more minutes, I think.”

“What about you, Henry?” Mr. DeWitt asked. “Don't you want to come in?”

“He doesn't share,” Mr. Briggs hurried to say. “You remember that, right?”

Mr. DeWitt waved this off as if it were of no consequence. “Come in and see,” he encouraged. “Just bring your slave and get in here.”

Henry stood unsteadily, and Martin could see instantly that he was much drunker than he would have anticipated. Guiltily, Martin felt he had been negligent in looking after him, too busy being flattered by Tom’s desperate seduction.

Mr. Briggs seemed concerned, too. He put his hand on Henry’s arm and said, “Henry. Maybe you should just go home.”

Henry shook off Mr. Briggs’ hand. “No, I want to see. Martin, come here. You, too, Peter.”

Martin went, but as slowly as he dared, full of dread. His ears were ringing, hands numb, heart pounding. Henry, defiant, was in a staring contest with Mr. Briggs, his cheeks red. He looked over at Martin and his face relaxed into a smile, but this only made Martin feel more desperate, unsure what the smile meant.

Peter passed through the door behind Mr. Briggs. Martin paused at the threshold, panicked and balking. He wanted to somehow take a moment alone with Henry, to remonstrate with him about this decision, about swapping. Did Henry really want this? Wasn’t Martin good enough? He would do anything for the other masters that Henry asked, anything at all, and he would neither complain nor hesitate to give good service, but he didn’t want Stuart or Tom or any of the others to lay a hand on Henry. He wanted desperately to bargain, except he had nothing to bargain with. He couldn’t ask Henry for fidelity; it wasn’t his right, and it reflected badly on Ganymede for him to show such possessiveness

Mr. DeWitt ushered them inside. This was a game room of some sort with a card table in the center. All of Martin’s friends were naked, all beautiful and fit and aroused—except for sulking Julian, who seemed indifferent to the scene. At the center of the action, Tom was naked on his back on the table, his knees up and his long, silky hair cascading over the edge of the tabletop. He had more chest hair than Martin would have guessed, and more hair on his legs, very black against his white skin. His cock was a nice one, as he had claimed. Martin imagined it would feel good to be fucked with such a cock, but it probably wouldn’t feel better than being fucked by Henry.

Dick stood between Tom’s dangling feet and thrust into him in sharp jerks. Martin stared, fascinated, as Dick fucked Tom, the muscles of his ass clenching and then going slack as he made his thrusts. The contrast between Dick’s cocoa brown skin and Tom’s milk white was very attractive, Dick’s hands like dark stars spread on the backs of Tom’s thighs. At the command of one of the masters, Simon presented his cock for Tom to suck, and Tom opened his mouth with a greedy moan. Alex reached for Tom’s cock with his left hand as he worked his own with the right. Even though Martin didn’t like the idea of touching or being touched by Alex, for just a moment he wanted to be in Tom’s place, with a cock in his mouth and another in his ass. In his most perfect fantasy, he had two of Henry, neither of them jealous, and they fucked him from both ends, filling him up and making him come harder than anyone else possibly could.

Henry looked shocked, his mouth hanging slack and eyes wide. Martin wished he could go to him and take his hand and reassure him, because Henry certainly looked as though he needed reassurance. At Martin’s side, Peter began to strip and he nudged Martin with his elbow.

“Come on,” he murmured. “Everyone’s been waiting for you.”

It was good to feel welcome. He looked to Henry for guidance, but Henry was still staring at the naked slaves. However, when Martin reached for the buttons of his waistcoat, Henry’s hand shot out and caught his wrist, staying his hand. So they were not participating, just as he had thought. It was mostly a relief. None of Martin’s friends would put their hands on Henry, and he was glad of it; he would have Henry to himself awhile longer. He was grinning, inappropriately happy, and did his best to rearrange his face into a more impassive expression while Mr. Ross and Henry exchanged heated words about swapping.

Martin felt affronted on Henry’s behalf when Mr. Ross kicked them out of the party. It was extremely ungentlemanly, in Martin’s opinion. There were better ways to have handled it. Simon gave Martin a commiserating look, and several of the masters looked as though they might disagree with Mr. Ross’ decision. But no one spoke up for Henry, no one said he could stay and watch, not even Mr. Briggs, and Martin wasn’t really surprised. The masters liked the rules they’d established for their parties; they wouldn’t bend them just for Henry.

Storming out didn’t go well. Neither of them were familiar with the Ross house and they ended up in the kitchen instead of the entry hall. A scullery maid had to lead them through the bowels of the house and find them a footman to fetch their hats and coats. Henry was fuming the entire time, mad at the world, and Martin hoped Henry realized they were on the same side, that he would always be on Henry’s side.

However, part of being on Henry’s side was preparing him for the future, for reality. Martin didn’t want to do it, not at all, but he felt he would be doing Henry a disservice if he didn’t encourage participation. Martin had always been taught that swaps were an important social event, a bonding experience for young men, and Henry was missing out on all of that.

Martin hurried to keep up with Henry as he strode down the sidewalk, hands jammed in his coat pockets.

“Sir? Sir?”

Henry whirled to glare at him. “What is it?” His gaze softened; he wasn’t really mad at Martin, after all.

The best way to say it was maybe just to say it. “I—I wouldn't mind, Sir. If you want.” It wasn’t true. He would mind.

“What?”

His heart was not in the offer, but he had to make it. “If you wanted to go back, Sir, I…would understand. This sort of thing…I knew it could happen. It's well-known that gentlemen have these sorts of parties after all, Sir.”

Henry came to a halt beneath a streetlamp and grabbed Martin’s wrist, jerking him to a standstill. “What? You wouldn't mind?” I mind, Martin! You…you matter to me.” Henry took hold of Martin's shoulders and gave him a single hard shake. He looked so sad and hurt that Martin felt terrible for making the suggestion.

Martin pushed his glasses up his nose. “Sir, I only meant—”

“It's bad enough there were men before me, Martin. There aren't going to be any others after me.”

“Of course, Sir.” He was flooded with relief, warm and golden.

Henry strode off again and Martin hurried to catch up. “And why the hell would I want to go back?” he demanded. “What possible reason would I have?”

Martin chose his words carefully. “It's just that the boys you know now will be your business associates in the future, Sir, and these sorts of activities bond boys together. It may be advantageous in the future, is what I'm saying, Sir.”

Henry scowled and shook his head adamantly. “It doesn't matter to me, Martin. They're all careless and selfish, even Louis. I would never let them use you.”

“Just so long as you know, Sir. I wasn't sure you understood the implications, seeing as how Mr. Blackwell is such an iconoclast—”

“A what?”

“A unique individual, Sir. A self-made man. Mr. Blackwell wasn't brought up understanding how things are done in high society, if you don't mind me saying so.” As Henry considered this, Martin added, “Thank you for considering my welfare, Sir. I appreciate how much you care for me.”

Henry sighed and gave him an affectionate bump with his shoulder, and Martin was relieved that he wasn’t angry, that he wasn’t accusing Martin of wanting to participate in an orgy. They walked the rest of the way home in a comfortable silence.

At home, Paul, obviously intoxicated, let them in.

Henry shrugged his coat into Paul’s hands and turned to Martin. “Is he drunk? Are the slaves having a party? Did you know?”

Martin laughed. “Keep it down, Sir. Don't wake the house!”

“Can I go? To the slaves' party?”

Martin didn’t want to drink anymore, and he didn’t want Henry drinking, either. He had another sort of celebration in mind. He steered Henry toward the staircase. “Why don't you let everyone have their little drinking party, Sir, and then we'll come down at midnight to set off the fireworks?” Paul had taken their coats and turned for the cloakroom, so Martin leaned in and licked the curve of Henry's ear unobserved and whispered, “I'll keep you busy until then, Sir, I promise I will.”

Climbing the stairs, he felt giddy, effervescent. Henry hadn’t wanted Tom, or Stuart, or any other slave. Henry was satisfied with Martin and Martin alone, at least for now. Martin would take that, and would be happy with what he was given.

Inside Henry’s room with the door locked, Martin felt frantic with joyous relief and couldn’t get their clothes off fast enough. They left a trail of mistreated garments inside-out and crumpled from the door to the bed. Naked, Martin backed Henry up to the bed, pushed him down, and kissed him all over—all the places Henry would allow, at any rate—and paid special attention to his nipples, liking the way he moaned and writhed as Martin licked and bit. Henry rarely said coherent words in response to pleasure, but this time he said oh god over and over in a worried whisper and then feels so good in a wondering little voice as he knotted his fingers in Martin’s hair and arched against his open mouth. Martin smiled against Henry’s skin, quite sure it was the whiskey talking.

Martin oiled Henry’s cock and sat back on it, letting out a hissing breath at the intense stretch as it filled him. The pressure felt good, so good, throbbing with his pulse and winding him tighter. He squeezed Henry’s sides with his knees and rode his cock in triumph: it was his and none of his friends would touch it, or suck it, or even look at it. None of them would have the opportunity to feel what he was feeling right now. They should be jealous, every one of them, even Julian.

Henry groaned and clutched at Martin’s hips as Martin raised and lowered himself over Henry’s length. Martin folded forward onto Henry’s chest and kissed him and let him do the work, pumping up into Martin’s ass. Each stroke struck sparks off the sensitive place inside Martin’s body and it felt so good it was nearly unbearable. Martin moaned in Henry’s ear and bit his neck, and it was just the right kind of pain to make Henry gasp, to make his cock swell even harder. Henry seemed especially sensitive and abandoned, and perhaps this was also due to the whiskey. Martin teased Henry’s nipples stiff with his fingertips and pinched them hard enough that Henry gave a startled shout. Twisting them, Martin scraped his thumbnails across the stiff peaks, and Henry cried out and came, arching up beneath Martin’s weight.

Henry clung to Martin, breathing hard, cock still flexing in his ass. His hands ranged over Martin’s back, tailbone to nape, and his mouth was searingly hot against Martin’s throat, his jaw, his eager lips.

“I want to make you come,” Henry murmured in Martin’s ear. “Get up here,” he urged, motioning Martin towards the head of the bed. “Come fuck my mouth.”

Martin knelt over Henry’s face and fed him his cock. Henry’s eyes fluttered closed and he moaned, his tongue curling around the slick head. Henry’s mouth felt syrupy and molten and so close and tight. Martin made shallow, excited thrusts into Henry’s throat and whimpered when he felt Henry’s fingers push bluntly into his hole, sloppy and slick with spunk. Martin shuddered at the easy slide, feeling a dirty thrill. Henry certainly hadn’t been trained to be fastidious about fluids; he reveled in them. Henry made little grunts and pulled Martin closer, fingers hooked in his hole, encouraging him to pump into his mouth.

Martin tried to be careful, thinking that Henry didn’t actually want to be made to suck his cock, but then Henry reached behind with his other hand and pushed more fingers into Martin’s hole, filling it tight and spreading it wide, and it felt so filthy that it made Martin’s mind go black and blank for a shocked moment. Eyes rolling back in his head, he thrust deep into Henry’s throat and came with single breathless Henry!

Henry kept his fingers deep in Martin’s hole while they kissed. Martin combed his hands through Henry’s hair and looked into his eyes, and Henry was still drunk enough that he held Martin’s gaze and didn’t immediately blush and look away. They kissed until Martin came unmoored, nothing in the world but his mouth on Henry’s, the heat of their skins. Henry let his fingers slip from Martin’s hole and Martin gave a little sob at the loss. He stretched out on top of Henry and lay limp and sated while Henry petted his back and shoulders. They knew it was midnight when they heard the first shouts and bangs out in the world beyond the windows.

“Happy New Year, Henry.”

Henry smiled and reached to tuck Martin’s hair behind his ear. “Happy New Year.”

Martin hurried to wash them both, and they dressed and went down to the yard to watch the rest of the family’s slaves set off fireworks.

Later in bed, buoyed by sex and pyrotechnics, Martin remained exhilarated with the relief of having Henry to himself. Henry had so adamantly not wanted to share Martin or to experience any of Martin’s friends. It was plain that Henry had only wanted to watch a little, just as he had obviously wanted to watch his cousin at Christmas. Perhaps there would be opportunities in the future for Henry to do something like that if he wanted; Martin would be happy to arrange it if Henry would only ask. They could watch together.

Henry muttered something in his sleep and his hands twitched against Martin’s skin. Martin soothed him with gentle strokes and kissed his forehead. Henry could still change his mind, but for now he was just Martin’s; he was Martin’s own.

He wished it one more time, for luck, before he slept.

Want only me.