"Chained by Memories"
Crossposted to _Riverside a while ago, apologies if you have to read it twice!
As ever, any comments will be framed and hung over my bed. Many thanks and kisses go to my Beta, Just Ann Now.
Now: WARNING for M/M rape, not particularly graphic but clear enough.
( It had been an excellent fight...Collapse )
Today a Moment happened to me. You know, one of those occasions which involve nothing particularly life-changing or amazing, and yet it all still feels a bit significant, maybe even important.
This is what made up my Moment (it is a very structured Moment, as you see):
1. My maybe-sort-of-crush (see previous entry…) and I had a conversation in which she
a) said something along the lines of “If you think it looks good I’ll go with it.” Allow me a moment to be both over-analytical and fashion-obsessed: I consider this rather odd, in the best possible way of course, since we’re not particularly close and haven’t talked style before. Also we dress very very differently: I do flippy skirts and ballet pumps and pearls; she does leather jackets and Doc Martens and piercings in places that scare me. But! Maybe this means she has actually, consciously noticed me from afar, which of course makes me much more Noticed than the amount of Noticed that comes from remarking on what the person with whom you spend all day is wearing
b) appeared to find me vaguely amusing and interesting
and all this makes me happy in a yearning-and-burning-and-slightly-hacked-o
2. Afterwards, on the bus home, I started on an Italian for Beginners book and, entirely literally, the language had me at “hello”. It was pleasant being the girl in the corner seat muttering to herself, because I was muttering quite possibly the most beautiful sounds in Europe.
Then I got off the bus, and it was less pleasant. It was pouring. Having no umbrella, I heroically covered my bag of books with my coat, and within five minutes was soaked. I mean properly, cinematographically, raindrops-hanging-from-every-facial-feat
3. Then I got back and listened to the Firebird Suite and had cheese on toast and a shower. So.
Well, it is the eve of the most important exams I have sat thus far in my life, so obviously I’m going to talk about
Ahaha what is this “supposed to be applying for Oxford” of which you speak?
Anyway. For (*thinks*) probably about two years I have been seriously considering being a homosexual. Yes, I am pretty sure I like girls. But.
-Do I like boys as well?
-Would I actually prefer boys? (Please keep in mind the tragic fact that I have no meaningful experience whatsoever of either road.)
-Is this whole flailfest just an unfortunate consequence of more than a decade of single-sex educational establishments and a third-degree obsession with Oscar Wilde?
-And most importantly: If one can be influenced by the above factors to become gay, could one be influenced by other factors to become straight?
Right. Please don’t judge me, from either side. I know for a fact that there are many happy, healthy, all-around-lovely gay people in the world. But. It’s just. I would prefer not to be one of them. You can’t deny it’s inconvenient, for one thing. 5% or thereabouts of the population of this first-world, liberal country considers themselves gay. Therefore, 95% of prospective partners are out of the equation before you’ve even submitted your lonely heart column. And yes, there are other factors at play in this entirely self-indulgent and inappropriate extended panic attack, but to be honest I think the question itself is the important bit, not the reasons why I’m asking it.
But. Again. There’s this girl. She goes to my school and I started noticing her a while ago and she’s all tall and skinny and she has /cheekbones/. And also a boyfriend. With whom I accidentally and briefly saw her the other day and I had a face like a slapped bum in the middle of the street, which is ridiculous. Also she really needs to stop wearing long black skirts with heels because she looks like a nun and you can’t have a gay crush on the Ordained. You just can’t.
So obviously I really really need to get over her pronto. But. For the third time. I kind of don’t want to. Is that really weird? Masochistic? Wrong? I /like/ the fact that I’m hurt and obsessive and convinced I’ve embarrassed myself every time we have a conversation? I'm /nurturing/ it?
So, have fun with that one, flist. Over to you.
Things that Might have Happened on “Trinity”
if Everything that Ever Happened on “Trinity”
had Never Happened on “Trinity”
I Just Want to Write Happy, Comfy, Jonty/Ross Drabbles
Jonty is perfectly happy lying with Ross warm and heavy and snoring against his back; there’s nothing in his mind but the view through their huge windows of the mist over Trinity’s grounds and the sun shining through it. So when there comes a sharp knock on the door, he peacefully ignores it, although it does wake him up just enough to realise that Ross is hard against his thigh and that means he’s going to come around soon. Jonty smiles. The knock comes again and he pouts, and then groans when it’s accompanied by Dorian’s voice saying,
“Jonty, it’s me, open the bloody door!”
He rolls over to peck Ross apologetically on the shoulder, and then slides out of bed, scrambling to pull on Ross’ bath robe, which is too wide around his shoulders and too short around his legs. Opening the door reveals Dorian in his own ridiculous dressing gown, looking decidedly put-out.
“What?” Jonty snaps, because he and Dorian are too close to each other to bother using their (impeccable) manners. He nods back over his shoulder, “And do keep your voice down, he only gets to sleep in one day a week.”
Dorian glares at him and sniffs. “I’ve had an idea and I thought my V.P. ought to know - if he can be arsed to leave his little gay love-nest, that is,” he adds, looking at Jonty superciliously.
Jonty merely raises his eyebrows. “Dorian?” he says, “You’re wearing a kimono. You do not get to make judgements about other people’s sexuality.”
“Be that as it may,” says Dorian, sniffing again, “I am extremely interested in a particular fresher girl. One Miss Charlotte Arc. Reddish hair, lovely cheekbones, a penchant for unflattering skirts which don’t quite hide her delightful backside, and,” he pauses with to look smug and dramatic, “the new President of the Christian Union’s Celibacy Club. What say you to a spot of friendly start-of-term corruption?”
Ross sees Charlotte in Chapel every week; the first few times he thinks of her only as “the first girl Dorian’s ever failed to seduce” but they start chatting when they see each other around college, and a month or so into term are firm friends, even if Charlotte is technically morally opposed to Dandelions and Ross is technically morally opposed to those morally opposed to Dandelions.
This changes one day when Charlotte is having a giggly rant about how psychology should not be considered a science and people only study psychology if they can’t get into medicine, and Ross, laughing along with her, says, “I should warn you, my boyfriend’s studying psychology and he’d match you point for point.”
Charlotte stops dead.
Ross looks at her, unsure of what’s caused the sudden change. Please God please don’t let it be that she fancies me. “Yes. Jonty Millingden? Tall, dark hair, cheekbones like cliffs?” He breaks off, grinning sheepishly. “Sorry, I’m sure you don’t want to hear me gushing.”
Charlotte is staring at him in a very worrying way.
“I – Ross, I didn’t think you would, I mean – oh gosh –” She ducks her head. “Ross, are, um, are you having a physical relationship with another boy?” And now Ross is staring back, fairly sure he looks like an absolute pillock, but firstly, hearing Charlotte talk about sex is a lot like those incredibly awkward talks with the school nurse, and secondly, he has an idea of where this is going and oh dear.
“Well, yes,” he says, “and I know you’re waiting for marriage and while I think that’s a very admirable personal decision…um. Well, yes I have.” Charlotte’s head snaps up and she looks into his eyes as if she’s about to cry.
“I think you should think about the choice you’re making. You need to remember that, that our faith doesn’t really condone your, that sort of relationship, and, well, you should re-consider it very carefully.” But she turns and disappears into the science library before he has time to consider anything at all.
The Bridgeford University regatta is without doubt one of the biggest and most prestigious events on the amateur rowing calendar, which is why Ross is currently on his knees leaning over a toilet, Jonty and Charlotte crouched beside him. He’s physically shaking and, when he’s finished being violently sick, he leans his head into Jonty’s collarbone to mutter:
“What am I doing, why do I do this, oh God, it’ll be awful, I should just pull out, argh-” Jonty pulls him forward to kiss him firmly. (Charlotte tactfully looks away; although after she found out he was gay she got her father, a vicar, to write to Ross offering guidance and unhelpful Bible quotations, she now mostly ignores it and they’re back to being friends.)
“Ross,” he says, very firmly, as Charlotte passes him a water bottle and tissues, “Look at me, darling. You say that each time, alright, and then you win everything. And you don’t know why you were worried. Remember? Babe, are you breathing? Oh good.”
They talk at him enough to get him down to where all the other rowers are congregated, and then it’s five minutes until he starts and Jonty demands another kiss to break him out of the trance of panic and Charlotte says, “Just get in the boat,” which is probably the best advice he could be given at that stage.
Eleven minutes and fourteen seconds later, the majority of the university is trying to congratulate Ross Bonham. Girls he doesn’t know hug him, and a professor of biology he only recognises because of the infamy of his wild eyebrows is telling him that as a rule he doesn’t get involved in training programs, but Ross’s cardiovascular records are quite extraordinary. The Dandelions shower him in champagne and Dorian himself reveals a rather spectacular congratulatory cake, and somewhere in between throwing himself into Jonty’s arms and trying to calm himself down so he doesn’t look actually insane for the photographs, it occurs to Ross that they must have ordered it days ago.
And a new project, one I plan to continue soon. Detailing the story of Swordspoint's Alec between Swordspoint and Privilege. Again, posted to _Riverside.
The official representative of the House of Tremontaine, along with the lawyer and the secretary it had been deemed necessary to send also, and their half-a-dozen guards, stood at a quarter past two in the morning in a room that was once the music chamber of a fine Riverside mansion. They were staring in silence through a doorway into what had been roughly furnished as a bedroom.
It was very cold, close enough to Last Night. The guards were breathing heavily, and steam was rising in delicate clouds around their heads. The bed they were looking at, large and ornately carved from some dark wood, was piled with several blankets and what appeared to be every item of clothing owned by its inhabitants. They were barely visible within their messy nest; only two heads of hair, one light brown, and one dark, were apparent.
A cat that none of them had noticed hopped down from a very rickety chaise longue behind them. It picked its way serenely through the legs of the group to leap onto the foot of the bed, where it stood, staring at them.
“Yes,” said the official representative of the House of Tremontaine after a sharp, self-conscious moment, “Well, indeed. Ah – so?” He looked at the lawyer, the secretary and the half-a-dozen guards, who either glanced down at their feet or nodded at him, conveying that since he had volunteered, they would let him handle the proceedings.
“Indeed,” he mumbled, and stepped out of the cluster to rap on the open door. Neither of the heads moved. He didn’t notice this, for convenience’s sake, and proceeded to produce from the pocket of his very grand coat a scroll from which he read in the true style of a Hill spokesperson.
“As the official representative of the House of Tremontaine, it is my sad duty to inform you that a few hours ago the Lady Diane Rosamond Perry Tielman, Duchess of Tremontaine, passed away. In her last will and testament Lord David Alexander Tielman Campion is recorded as heir to her title, to be inherited immediately. On behalf of the Council of Lords, the board of Governors of the People’s Glorious Rising Crescent University, the Tremontaine Northern Culture Charity, and the workers and servants of Tremontaine, I offer you my best wishes for your new position, Lord David, Duke Tremontaine.”
He had tried to make the ending triumphant, but instead it sounded like a question. The closest it got to an answer was the cat, which blinked and then stalked up the length of the bed to lie near the two heads. One of the guards sneezed. The representative bit his lip. He knocked on the bedroom door again, more loudly. He took a step into the room, then took it back again. He positively hammered on the door.
“Goodness me!” said a rough female voice from a way off. They heard footfalls on the stairs, and then a woman wearing a shabby coat over a very revealing nightdress appeared in the doorway. “Are you trying to destroy my rooms?” she demanded. “No? Then why in hell have you been banging on the walls for the last ten minutes? You should be glad I let you in in the middle of the bleeding night, not go making sure I don’t get any sleep in what’s left of it!”
“I beg your forgiveness, Madame. I am the-”
“The official whatever of the House of Whichever, yes, I know. You never told me what you’re doing here, other than annoying the landlady.”
“I am delivering a message to Lord David,” the official whatever replied nervously. “I did not mean to wake you, madame, I wished only – well, to wake him.”
Marie cast her eyes to the ceiling as if in a bid for patience. With another mutter of, “Goodness me!” she marched over to the bed, and shoved the blankets back. Two young men were sleeping with their arms around each other and their faces an inch apart. They pressed even closer together in the sudden cold, but their groans of protest were drowned out by Marie.
“Richard! Alec! Get up! There’s half the Hill here to see you, God knows what for though they say it’s important, but I want them gone this side of fifteen minutes. Get up!” And pausing only to give the assembled men a glare which said quite clearly, “That is how to wake people up, you idiots,” she stomped out of the room and back down the stairs.
The light-haired man raised himself up onto his elbows. He was impressively muscled and remarkably composed for someone who had just been awoken in the middle of the night to find a collection of strangers hovering outside his door. He was, in fact, watching those strangers as if expecting something of them. The representative looked at him and found that he thought this man could perhaps make a very satisfactory Duke, even if he had run away to Riverside, of all places. The same could not be said for his plebeian companion, who looked decidedly underfed and determined not to wake up.
Lord David leaned out of the bed to light two candle stumps on a side table. Shadows jumped up around the room, and his friend’s hair glowed bronze. He sat back into his pillows and looked questioning.
The official representative of the House of Tremontaine started once again to read out his scroll. Lord David watched him and did not shift; his companion rolled over and opened his eyes, if only to stare at the ceiling with a perfectly blank expression, his hair half-long hair spread out over the pillow.
A pregnant pause followed the end of the proclamation.
“My lord,” the secretary ventured, “we have carriages ready to take you back up to the Hill.” The new Duke of Tremontaine looked down at the young man next to him, as if to find an answer there.
“Of course,” he said quietly, and the representative stopped breathing. The ragged boy spoke like anyone plucked from the Duchess Tremontaine’ last winter ball. “Of course she had to die at midnight. How dramatic. How inconvenient.” He sat up abruptly, and looked at the calm man next to him. “Well, Richard? Shall we go? When was the last time you had a ride in a carriage? God only knows how they got it through the streets. Don’t you know these are the peak hours of business in Riverside?” This last was addressed with a smirk at the collection of Tremontaine aides, who were to a man staring at him with expressions far from suitably reverential. The skinny, naked boy, gathered his limbs together and started hunting through the clothing on the bed. He pulled what looked like a thin black blanket toward him, and found armholes somewhere to turn it into a loose robe – a scholar’s robe, the official representative realised. The most powerful man in the City was in Riverside and a scholar’s robe and nothing else.
He tossed a bundle of brown garments at the other man and watched him dress quite openly before turning to his entourage, none of whom had either moved or managed to change their expression.
“Yes?” he drawled. The entourage hurried to agree. The boy looked at them like they were perfectly stupid. “Well?” he asked, “I thought my presence was required on the Hill, hence your presence being required in my bedroom. Or is it simply the fashion to pay social calls in the middle of the night?” The party glanced down as one, and the new Duke sighed, eyebrows raised. “To the carriages, then,” he said, and the aides backed out of the doorway, filing to either side to create a corridor for the Duke to pass through. He promptly made a show of slouching to one side of the room, waiting
for his companion to precede him. The man slid out of bed.
A sword was in his right hand, which until that moment had been under the blankets. It was very plain and heavily crafted, tended so that the metal looked molten in the candlelight. He held it as easily and as precisely as he might a pen. Once again, the party from the Hill stared; once again, the official representative stepped forth reluctantly.
“My lord, may I ask who this is?” He tried to look at the man in question, who was as impassive as ever, rather than the weapon. “I ask, that is, if he is to accompany us, for reasons of security…”
“You may indeed,” said the Duke, standing up rather taller. “This is Richard St. Vier, and he is certainly going to accompany us.”
They topple back onto the bed and immediately scramble together again, unaware of everything but the demanding lust. Richard should be struck by how peculiar this is; someone who is not a scholar, nor an aristocrat, nor a man nor a boy, in his bed, for reasons he doesn’t really know, but which were certainly convincing. He should be working out if he should be doing this, or even what it is he is doing. Instead he pulls Alec’s face to his and they kiss ferociously. Alec tears at Richard’s shirt, and as soon as it’s off he’s digging his fingers underneath the other man’s breeches. He tries to kick off his own breeches without moving his hands from their grip on Richard’s shoulders. Perhaps he knees Richard in the stomach in his struggle, but if he does, neither of them pays any attention.
Then they’re suddenly and completely naked, and pressing together burns and aches and feels spectacular. When Richard grabs blindly for the oil, Alec climbs over his lap. He’s drunk on desperation; before either of them is properly ready, he impales himself, and screams into Richard’s shoulder. Richard jerks up, irregular and uncontrollable, groaning, Alec’s hair in his mouth. The boy shudders as Richard grips his hips. He’s gasping into Richard’s ear, but neither of them can make out what he’s saying. It’s much too rough and quick for either of their tastes, but it is wonderful.
Richard passes out before he can wrap his thoughts around what’s happening.
He opens his eyes when Alec starts squirming. It’s an uncomfortable moment, when they both wake up properly and realise quite how entangled they are. Richard is holding Alec’s hipbone. Alec’s fingers are curled around Richard’s upper arm, and his silky tangled hair is draped over both their necks like a scarf. They pull apart silently, and Alec stretches. Richard watches him. Extended out, he reaches almost from the ornate head of the bed to the foot.
“Ow,” Alec mutters, and then moves his hips experimentally. “Ow,” he says in that gorgeous voice, wincing theatrically. Richard feels like he ought to say something. When he doesn’t, Alec announces, “I’m not in any condition to get out of bed.” He tucks his head under Richard’s chin, and is asleep (or faking very well) before Richard can wrestle the surprise off his face - but not before he finds himself sliding his arms around Alec again.
Alec fires off cynical remarks, but when it turns out the servants have already run a bath bigger than most beds Richard has been in, he immediately starts stripping, eyebrows raised wickedly. Richard follows him, and they sink in up to the neck and stretch out. The heat of their bodies, surrounded by the heat of the water, is impossibly luxurious.
The slim, pale body is distorted by reflections, but Richard maps it with his hands, stroking his back and his throat and his endless legs, and then reaches up to tease the fraying black ribbon down his tail, the ends of which are swirling about their shoulders, the colour of treacle. Alec melts into the crook of his neck, licking his collarbone and whispering, gasping. Richard cradles him, rolls him over and makes a noise lost between a groan and a sigh when Alec spreads his thighs without hesitation. Richard knows he can stop worrying.
They make love slowly, using nothing but the warm water. Alec wraps an arm around Richard’s neck and a leg around his waist, and rests his head against the rim of the tub. His lover holds his hips, his backside, his thighs, supporting him from under the surface of the water, angling him to precise perfection.
Afterwards, Alec says, “You know, it’s traditional actually to wash when in a bathtub.” He wriggles out of Richard’s arms and inspects the beautiful little bottles on a neatly-placed side-table, selects one, and promptly dumps half the contents on Richard’s head.
When they eventually leave the bath, Richard feels far too clean to put his old clothes on again. He sinks into the massive bed, naked and damp. He gathers Alec to him, presses his nose into wet hair that smells like fresh lemon, and falls asleep more quickly that he would have thought possible.
A knock at the door wakes Richard up. He’s not had quite enough sleep and he really doesn’t want to take his head out of Alec’s lap, but Alec says, “Come in,” in a strange voice. Richard had been expecting, “Go away, Marie,” so he pushes himself up, knocking out of the way the large book Alec had been about to rest open over his face to keep the page.
A valet enters the exquisite chamber and with him, last night’s news rushes back with a vengeance.
By the time they make port, Richard hasn’t eaten or slept for roughly four days. He staggers up from the tiny cabin, and watches vaguely as Alec negotiates something with the captain. Then he can’t really do anything except clutch Alec, who leads him off the ship and up a hill. He’s dizzily relieved that the ground doesn’t move.
Then there’s a bed and it’s all he needs.
He only wakes up because Alec is poking him determinedly. It feels like morning, but the air is hot and dry. It smells overwhelmingly of thyme and salt. Kyros, Richard thinks.
He stretches, and hasn’t even opened his eyes when Alec drawls, “Finally!” and kisses him hard. He pulls back for just enough time to say, “You slept for nineteen hours. I will never forgive you,” before shoving Richard down in the bed.
Alec might look predatory, but his mouth is luscious: warm, supple and generous. He drapes himself over Richard, who combs his fingers up into the long hair. Then he frowns, and turns his head to ask,
“Why am I awake?”
Alec, who’s simply moved his attention from his lover’s lips to his neck, glances up, horrified. “Don’t even think about sleeping again.” He makes his point with a bite over the collarbone. Richard tries not to lose focus. It’s a challenge. He sits up, forcing Alec to stop, at least for as long as it takes to find somewhere else to lie.
“When was the last time I ate?” Alec huffs.
“Yesterday evening. I’m not surprised you don’t remember; you barely woke up. I couldn’t believe you could eat, let alone have a wash. You did, though. That explains why you are, in fact, naked.” He slides a hand pointedly up Richard’s thigh.
Richard tries not to grin. “But what was there to eat? Are you haggling in Kyronic markets already?”
He can hear Alec scowl. His body is taut. “I bought some of the ship’s provisions, I suppose when you were either unconscious or vomiting. So at almost any time after we boarded.” And he pushes Richard back down and covers his mouth before he can say anything else.
Richard surrenders gladly and draws Alec back on top of him. He transforms, sighing into Richard’s mouth, shifting to caress the contours of muscle in his shoulders and chest. His fingertips brush over the bite mark, and his tongue follows them. Richard moans when Alec licks down to his nipples. He runs his hands down the backs of long thighs to find the edge of Alec’s nightshirt, and fingers it; Alec scrambles to pull it off. When he leans back down to Richard’s lips, the weight of his body is too warm for Richard to do anything but hold onto it.
It takes a long time for them to let go of each other enough to find the oil. Then Richard lounges back and guides Alec to lie in a way that makes his wishes quite clear. His lover touches his face and his hair while Richard stretches, writhing slowly. At some point Alec’s fine voice begins filling in the breaks between Richard’s quiet breaths. Both the voice and the breaths grow louder until they fall silent.
Richard sleeps for another ten hours and then wakes up in much the same way.
This is the first proper work I ever finished. It was for an exchange fest over on Thremedon. Havemercy fandom, obviously; Balfour/Adamo, nothing too naughty. Called "Lovers and Armament"
( A dinner-party at the Esar's palace, however, was not an offensive operation...Collapse )
When it came to military command, Chief Sergeant Adamo was probably the best, and certainly the most experienced, man in Volstov. The fact that he had lead the Dragon Corps for twelve years without dying, or even weeping at a state-funded psychotherapist, spoke volumes about his talent for planning operations and managing men who, despite their flawless skill and astounding bravery, were essentially crazy assholes.
A dinner-party at the Esar’s palace, however, was not an offensive operation, and as such, Adamo felt as out-of-place as a whore in the Basquiat. The dark-haired man sitting to Adamo’s right, eating his escargots quite beautifully, was not even a crazy asshole who could provide a distraction.
He gazed at Balfour in the vain hope of figuring out how to eat properly something he was fairly sure he didn’t want to be eating. The young airman, however, seemed perfectly at ease with the twisted, greyish mouthfuls; in fact, he seemed completely at ease with the entire evening. Balfour had been brought up in one of the finest houses of country nobility, and it showed. He hadn’t even got snail juice on his gloves.
Sensing Adamo’s tension, Balfour looked up, a sympathetic smile slipping across his lips. He silently guided Adamo’s hand to the correct piece of cutlery, and then arranged Adamo’s broad, blunt fingers to hold it correctly. Balfour squeezed his hand gently before turning back to his own plate.
“It’s quite easy if you just turn them," he said. "You see?”
Adamo attempted to copy, but ended up spearing the entire shell on the fork. On trying discreetly to pick it off, he managed both to break the shell all over the white table-cloth, and to bend the dainty bit of silverware. He groaned, leaning to rest his forehead on Balfour’s shoulder.
“Adamo, you’re supposed to have fun at dinner-parties,” Balfour told him. “I’ve never seen you look more panicked.”
Adamo didn’t lift his head up to reply. “Is eating snails with weird forks part of having fun?”
Balfour laughed softly. “I’m afraid so.”
Adamo pressed a discreet kiss to Balfour’s shoulder through the stiff fabric of his uniform, and sighed before sitting up again. He had only been invited because the Esar’s group of guests (aristocrats, politicians, celebrities, and in some terrible cases, all three at once) were fascinated by the escapades of the Corps, and he had only been allowed to bring Balfour because the younger man was far more suited to such a party. Royston had told him as much, and Adamo was inclined to believe him. Not only was the Margrave decidedly more knowledgeable about these occasions, but Adamo had indeed spent the entire evening answering eager questions from infatuated ladies.
As a bright-eyed girl put Balfour under the inquisition, it occurred to Adamo that Royston was almost certain to be here. He was a member of society whom the Esar could hardly leave off the invitation list, partly because he, too, was of great interest to the other guests. Being fairly infamous for several scandalous dalliances, Royston was sure to be starting as much conversation as the two airmen.
Adamo frowned down at his ruined dish. Royston wouldn’t have gone without Hal; he obviously wanted the whole of Thremedon to fawn over his “child-bride farm-boy” who had suddenly become a national hero. And seeing as high society was hardly shy, or even tactful, when it came to the details of gossip, the boy was likely to be hearing more than he wanted to about Royston’s past. Perhaps, if Adamo found him, they could save each other from imminent death-by-dinner-party.
He scoured the party for the Margrave and his assistant, but the hall was filled with at least two hundred guests; the two tables were so long that Adamo could barely see those at the other end of his own, let alone someone sitting with their back to him across the enormous hall.
“Balfour,” he said quietly (cutting off the girl as she launched into a tale about a cousin who was a highly decorated soldier, perhaps Airman Balfour had heard of him), “have you seen Royston or Hal tonight?” Adamo was well aware that the training for flying a swift, on top of the survival tactics needed as the newest recruit, had made Balfour the sort of person to notice such details.
Balfour shook his head. “I haven’t. I had no idea they were going to be here, but now that you mention it, I presume they received invitations.”
“Right. And you know how everyone here’s obsessed with gossip-” he paused to glance at the bright-eyed girl, who immediately blushed and flicked her eyes down to her lap. Adamo put a hand that was not quite necessary on Balfour’s arm “-I’m just worried that Hal’s going to hear…things he’d rather not. And he’s not the sort of person who’s used to…this sort of people. I mean, last time he ended up hiding in a bathroom. And that was when nobody knew who he was. Do you think he’ll be getting harassed? I might have to check in the-”
“Adamo,” Balfour said, a laugh in his voice, “Hal is not made of glass. I’m sure he could do a fine job of fending off the harassments of young ladies, with or without Royston, so you can stay here. The next course will be meat. Lamb is the thing to serve at the moment, and I imagine you’ll like that more than escargots.”
It was indeed lamb, and indeed more enjoyable, but Adamo stayed tense throughout the procession of salad and sweets and cheese and coffees. By the time it was acceptable to get up and “mingle”, which Adamo took to mean “escape from the obnoxious company he’d sat with for two hours”, he was hell-bent on finding Hal. If Adamo was just about ready to run away from the whole gathering, Bastion damn what the boy would be feeling.
He marched across to the far end of the other table, sure that if Hal and Royston were anywhere else, he would have seen them during four courses’ worth of searching. He spent an uncomfortable few minutes leaning in to examine every cluster of guests in that area, while trying simultaneously to glare away anyone who looked to make conversation. Eventually, Balfour appeared at his side to say softly,
“They’re over there.”
So they were, along with quite a gaggle of the sort of people Royston knew. One of them had small antlers. Adamo gazed at the young man, not only thankful but amazed at Balfour’s talent for navigating him through this sort of thing.
“Thank-you,” he murmured, and then, “Come and meet them properly.” He put a hand on Balfour’s back and walked him over, leaving him little choice. In situations of this kind, Adamo considered his lover to be his armament.
Hal smiled widely as soon as he saw the pair. The rush of relief that Adamo felt would have been more appropriate had he been expecting to find the boy suffering serious bodily harm. He pulled Balfour up to the group, fully intending to introduce him properly, but Hal’s genuine pleasure in seeing them was, insanely, what stopped Adamo from doing the socially normal thing and reduced him to coming out with a very relieved,
“You’re not in a bathroom.”
Hal laughed at that very fine statement.
“No,” he said, “I’m not. Actually I was talking to Margrave Ptolemy” – he gestured to
the man with horns – “about the plays they’ve just lifted the ban on.” Hal had already slipped into a Thremedon accent. His facial expressions might have been as easy to read as ever, but now he was every inch a proper ‘Versity student, complete with limbs that had suddenly grown a little too long.
“I hadn’t heard about that,” Adamo muttered, and sent Balfour a silent plea for help. Having been reassured that Hal was not sitting in a sink when there wasn’t even anyone to discuss third-edition gold-prints with, Adamo’s discomfort with Miranda society was had returned with a vengeance. Balfour gave Hal and Ptolemy a beautiful smile and introduced himself, and within moments they were chatting about the anarchic subtext of modern theatre productions. Adamo felt completely left out of the discussion and quite satisfied like that. He settled into quiet thoughts about how Balfour’s jaw-line looked especially gorgeous when he smiled, and thus didn’t notice Hal’s own smile slide off his face until he tugged at Adamo’s arm.
“The Mme, that’s Royston’s sister-in-law, is over there.” He gestured discreetly at a woman in miles of green crinoline who was bearing down on them, gripping Royston’s arm. Both of them looked distinctly put out.
Adamo frowned. “She’s the one with the table? I mean, the one Roy-”
“Yes, it’s her, she’s visiting and Royston’s been trying to keep her away from everyone all evening.” Hal paused for the briefest of moments to look both very grateful and very in love. “But anyway, you need to go, I mean, it would be best if she didn’t know you were here, basically, I think she wants to engage her daughter to an airman,” Hal said at top speed, under his breath.
“Does she,” said Adamo, eyeing the woman.
Hal added, “Her daughter’s eleven.”
The Mme waved determinedly at Hal, and then turned to say something to Royston, who did not reply. He had the look on his face that Adamo always associated with him blowing up a bookshelf at the ‘Versity in third year. Adamo murmured thanks before putting his head down and making a bee-line for glass doors to a balcony which looked empty. Balfour called hasty goodbyes over his shoulder before following suit.
Walking into the cold evening air was like walking into a wall, after spending so long in the crowded dining-room. Adamo huffed, and then turned around as Balfour followed him out.
“That was terrifying,” he said, and Balfour burst out laughing.
“What?” he demanded, perplexed and still slightly horrified. Balfour, still shaking with stifled laughter, only looped his arms around Adamo’s neck and kissed him soundly. It was warm without being intrusive, as all Balfour’s kisses were. Adamo’s eyebrows shot up, but if that was Balfour’s response, he wasn’t going to push for a more verbal explanation. His hands fell to smaller man’s waist.
Balfour pulled back far too soon, to say,
“I’ve honestly never seen you look so…disgruntled. You think Hal might be in danger. You find Margrave Royston’s sister-in-law terrifying. It’s just so – ironic.” He kissed Adamo again, before he could reply. Suddenly glad for the cool air, Adamo pulled him closer, tracing Balfour’s jaw and relishing his lips. After a moment he breathed into Balfour’s mouth,
“I’ll be disgruntled more often, then, if this is what it gets me,” and slid a hand into his hair. He felt like protesting when Balfour moved back again.
“You know, you don’t need to worry,” he murmured, gesturing back toward the dining-room. Adamo peered through the glass doors and smirked as he saw Royston and Hal cheerfully abandoning the Mme to Margrave Ptolemy, and secreting themselves away behind a row of columns, out of sight of those in the hall. Being otherwise engaged, the
pair had not noticed they were directly in view of anyone who happened to be hiding on a balcony.
Adamo smiled and left them to it. He gathered Balfour back into him, unfastening his stiff collar, and re-evaluating what he thought of the party.