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It was a long and brutally cold winter evening, on one of Ralph's rare days of leave; Laurie, however, had ceased to feel the chill emanating from outside. They had been keeping themselves sufficiently warm while tangled up on bedsheets by the heat of the gas-fire, exchanging fervent kisses and lazily exploring each other's bodies under the cover of darkness and firelight, as the winds howled and snow thickened the streets.

Ralph's slow, skillful touches had gradually worked Laurie into a pent-up frenzy. Laurie, hot and increasingly impatient, rolled himself on top of Ralph; in one firm, unthinking motion he shoved down Ralph's trousers and underpants and was thrusting frantically between Ralph's legs in a way he realized only too late could be construed as an entreaty for something else. He stopped abruptly. 

"Spud?" Ralph murmured into Laurie's neck, his voice still raw with lust.

"Oh, God. I didn't think—sorry, Ralph."

"Sorry?" Ralph repeated in curt disbelief, drawing back, and Laurie soon found himself the recipient of one of Ralph's famous straight looks. "What on earth should you be sorry for?"

"Well, it's always been—I mean, you're usually the one to—" Laurie stammered, feeling himself blush ridiculously under Ralph's piercing gaze. It was absurd for him to feel so self-conscious about it, after all they had done together over the past few weeks (in fact, nearly every day since they'd moved in together after his discharge)—but they had never done it in that particular way. It had always seemed perfectly natural for him to take the receptive position, since the beginning; and yet, while he did enjoy their current arrangement immensely, and was certain that the satisfaction was deeply mutual, he couldn't deny he had occasionally indulged in an idle, thrilling curiosity about being on the other side, in his most secret fantasies that he had never spoken aloud.

"My dear, I may have been your Head of School, but that doesn't quite make me your erastes," Ralph said, his brows lifted in amusement. "We aren't confined to the roles of the Greeks, in that regard."

"It's not that," Laurie said, growing even redder. "I—I just didn't think you'd be for it, that's all."

"It isn't usually my preference," Ralph admitted. "But with certain people..." He gently pulled Laurie back towards him, into the solid comfort of his arms, and curled a hand in Laurie's hair. "In my experience some men only are inclined towards one or the other, but I don't feel such a need for it myself. Not with you, in any case. Besides, people say changing it up from time to time keeps things rather lively. Would you like to try, Spud?"

Laurie rubbed a hand on Ralph's chest, relieved. "God, yes. But only if you really want it."

Ralph smiled and pressed a quick kiss to Laurie's fingers. "I want you in every way, Spuddy."

It took a few attempts to find a position that wouldn't be cumbersome for Laurie's leg, which had a frustrating tendency to act up at the most inconvenient times. Ralph was always kind about it though, and he could be extraordinarily creative in matters of the bedroom. They eventually settled on lying on their sides, back to chest, Laurie's right leg positioned on top. Laurie was still inclined to feel a bit embarrassed over it all, the terms of his previously covert desires being laid out so explicitly, but Ralph's smoothly matter-of-fact approach, his experience and significant eagerness to gratify, lent a comfortable ease to the proceedings that soon shed away any lingering awkwardness.

With a heightening sense of anticipation, Laurie sat back and watched as Ralph stripped off the rest of his clothes, folding them neatly over the back of a chair, and laid down again with his back turned towards Laurie, a provocative smile underneath his lashes, his fine blond hair slightly and charmingly askew across his forehead. Laurie reached out and slid his hand in long, deliberate strokes over the body he had come to know nearly as well as his own, taking a moment to admire the spare, well-defined musculature of Ralph's back and torso, the compact and powerful thighs splayed in casual repose, and—arguably most captivating of all—the glorious curve of his arse, remarkably soft and pale in contrast to the rest of his sun-weathered, golden-brown skin. Not for the first time, Laurie thought that the naval uniform, despite its taut and impeccable cut, could hardly do enough justice to the form it concealed, and he understood the impulse of the Greeks to immortalize the kouros in marble and bronze. He felt a barely perceptible shiver under his hand as it reached the end of its meandering journey and smiled, warmed through with triumph and elation.

He had only tried taking the active role once—years ago, with a girl he'd met at an Oxford party through a mutual acquaintance, though the experience had been an abject failure in every respect. It had been right after the Charles debacle, when he'd felt at low ebb and in need of having to prove something to himself (what it was, he still wasn't entirely sure). He had been tight and miserable and ready to flee at any moment, but her hair was extremely fair and attractive—reminiscent of Ralph's in certain lights, now that he thought about it—and she had seemed inexplicably interested. In the end it wasn't enough for him, and she had grown impatient with his apologies and wandered back to the party, as he gathered up his things and thought wistfully of Lanyon.

Laurie retrieved the small jar of petroleum jelly from the bedside drawer, and Ralph languidly stretched out against the bed, with an air of utter relaxation, as Laurie cautiously worked slick fingers inside him, trying to recall the way Ralph had done it for him so many times before. Ralph, resting his head on a pillow, would offer brief instructions now and then but otherwise kept strangely quiet; despite his display of insouciance, perhaps he was not used to giving up control so entirely. The implicit trust in it, nevertheless, was rather touching. Laurie carried on, his other hand occasionally circling around to attend to Ralph's hardening cock, which lay twitching through Laurie's slow strokes that were easing him open. When Laurie slid his fingers deeper, crooking them and brushing repeatedly against a certain spot, Ralph's body violently shuddered with an abrupt, startled cry, followed by a muffled oath gasped aggressively into the pillow.

Laurie caressed his thigh fondly. Such a marked show of vulnerability deserved another in turn; he said, in a low tone, "I love you, Ralph. I need you."

Ralph let out something between a laugh and a groan, as he palmed himself roughly with his free hand. "Hurry up and fuck me, Spud. I don't have all bloody day for you to muck around down there."

"Yes, please, Lanyon," Laurie answered obligingly, pressing the sensitive spot again and eliciting another satisfying, guttural noise. The sudden desire to see Ralph overcome and out of his senses sent a pulsing, white-hot flare of arousal towards his own cock, which had gone achingly hard with need throughout this preparation.

After slathering himself with a generous layer of the lubricant, he eased down to line himself up beside Ralph, the head of his prick probing tentatively against the crease of Ralph's entrance. He recalled the first time they had ever made love, on that cool autumn night sheltered in Laurie's cottage, Ralph's soft murmurs of reassurance, the nervousness intermingled with the thrill of anticipation, the sense of finally coming home—and afterwards the guilt and shame that accompanied the astonishment of self-discovery. Still grappling with what it meant about himself, he had not ever considered the possibility of such a reversal. Yet Ralph had offered this readily, and Laurie was determined not to disappoint.

He clutched onto Ralph's hip and sank in, carefully. The sensation of being inside Ralph, of Ralph tightly clenching around him, was almost too overwhelming for him to bear; for a moment he wasn't sure he would be able to last. He closed his eyes and pressed his face into the back of Ralph's neck, breathing in the clean, newly washed scent of his hair. He tried to brace himself as if he was preparing for a long swim back at Oxford, another test of his endurance (albeit in a rather different way), but found himself temporarily lost in the sheer warmth and wonder of being enveloped in Ralph.

He felt Ralph's hand close over his. "Laurie." The sound of his name, low and intimate, was somehow centering, and it anchored him swiftly back to the present.

"Is this good?" Laurie shifted his angle, pushing himself in deeper, propping his bad leg over Ralph's thigh and locking them into place. The gently simmering spark of pleasure became all at once exquisitely intensified, nearly knocking the breath out of him.

There was an odd hitch in Ralph's voice when he responded. "Yes, Spuddy, go on. You feel..." He pressed back against Laurie and was moved, quite suddenly, to silence.

Ralph subsequently guided him through the motions, slow at first and then insistent, establishing a vigorous rhythm that Laurie followed instinctively, driving his hips forward, ever faster, harder, exerting muscles he hadn't fully utilized in some months. Once or twice Laurie might have slowed down, fearing it would be too much, but Ralph urged him on, with breathless, sometimes inarticulate directives issued in his ruthlessly efficient officer's voice, rocking back hard against Laurie's cock and bucking with abandon (yes, Spuddy, yes, just like that); Laurie felt utterly bound to him, swept along by an exciting, almost dreamlike pull of command that seemed as inevitable as a tidal current. It was a good deal rougher than their usual love-making, as Ralph tended for a sweeter, gentler approach when the positions were reversed, but he sensed it was the way Ralph wanted just then.

Laurie couldn't remember anything he said afterwards—he was always embarrassingly vocal during sex, most of it complete nonsense, interjected with breathy obscenities and repetitions of Ralph's name. His release, when it finally came, felt precisely tied to Ralph's steady movements and brought him gasping and shuddering over the edge as he spilled into Ralph, who reflexively went still and tense around him. Ralph was comparatively quieter towards the end, save for the harsh, ragged sounds of his breathing, and he came with a wordless shout some time after Laurie had finished, spending fast and hot in Laurie's grasp.

Afterwards they drifted into the closeness that always arose in the aftermath of physical union, as if the entire world had, for a short time, narrowed to just the two of them. Ralph seemed to recover first; he had turned and propped himself up on one elbow, smiling down at Laurie, his eyes warm and tender. He bent to lay a kiss on Laurie's brow. "Christ, I hadn't done that in ages. If it had always been like that…"

"Mm....I rather liked it, too," Laurie replied, feeling drowsy and stupid. Ralph laughed softly and kissed him again.

Yawning slightly and stretching his limbs, Laurie sprawled out over the bed, feeling conscious of a dull exhilaration and pleasantly sated, a deep fatigue settled into his bones. His leg was starting to ache but only a bit more than usual; he rolled over to lie on his stomach, his face pressed into the bed, to relieve some of the strain, but he was too exhausted to do much more than this.

Ralph after briefly washing up in the bathroom returned with a damp rag and a bottle of aspirin that he tossed to Laurie, and he sat down on the edge of the bed to massage Laurie's knee.

"You do wear a man out, Spud," Ralph said, with affection. "Anything else you want to try, hm? Or have you finally had enough for one day?"

"I can think of one or two things," Laurie said sleepily, the recent events imbuing him with a sudden daring. "But maybe a little later. Come back over here and tell me one of your sea stories that I haven't already heard..."

Ralph laughed, a bright fond sound, and went to oblige.