by Kit Miller
Spokehamshire, England. 9th of September 1885
The twenty-seventh birthday of Lord David Prevost, only child of the Lord Jesse Prevost, the Earl of Spokeham, was the most anticipated event of the season. The manour’s ballroom was packed to the rafters with guests milling about, drinking champagne, laughing, and dancing. Lord David himself fluttered among the crowd like a quick-winged butterfly, his smile never dimming, his laughter never faltering.
His reputation as an avid connoisseur of parties was legendary. No gathering was too big or too small. No matter if it was a royal gala or a private little tea party; if he was invited, he’d be there. Not even distance mattered. Once, he had attended a wedding in Aberdeen and then a garden party in Bath within the same week. People joked he’d gone through more horses on that one trip than they did in an entire year.
And if he was the one to send out the invitation, the party promised to be spectacular.
Jonathan weaved his way through the throng, a tray of champagne flutes balanced on his fingertips. As Lord David’s valet and thus among the highest-ranking servants, he was normally above these footman duties. But for an occasion so grand, it was all hands on deck. Thaddeus Cartwright, the butler, directed the Prevost servants with the urgency, authority, and efficiency of a general commanding an army. And like an army, everyone knew their duties and performed them without hesitation or objection.
A guest bumped into Jonathan and he nearly stumbled. His bad knee jolted in painful protest, and the flutes chimed as they clinked together. One or two spilled a few drops. But Jonathan merely gritted his teeth, knew he would not get an apology, and was proven right. The guest simply plucked a flute off the tray and floated away.
Jonathan took the moment to take stock of the situation. The ballroom was teeming with people. The music was drowned out by their chatter and laughter. Footmen and maids came and went, mostly sticking to the walls, as Jonathan had, to avoid the throng. The air was stifling with the pent-up heat of a late summer afternoon. Just to his left, Jonathan overheard two ladies complain about how much their wrists hurt from excessive fan-fluttering.
And Jonathan still had to find five of David’s guests and deliver the message. He had until six o’clock and it was already half past five. Were Jonathan one to fret, he’d fret.
Another guest approached him and took a champagne flute. This one, at least, dipped her head in thanks. Jonathan smiled at her; he knew who she was. Sometimes, it appeared Lady Luck smiled even on Jonathan.
“You’re Lord David’s man, I believe,” the guest said, the flute held daintily in her ring-studded fingers.
“That I am,” Jonathan replied and bowed, the tray staying perfectly horizontal. “Lady Amelia Nothomb. Jonathan Benson, at your service.”
“Jonathan, is it?” she echoed, one eyebrow arched and her lips quirking.
“Indeed, my lady.”
“What an amusing coincidence,” she said, laughing. Her dangling earrings swung around wildly. Jonathan couldn’t imagine that to be comfortable.
“Quite,” he replied tonelessly. If he had a ha’penny every time someone remarked on his and Lord David’s names, he’d certainly never need to work a day in his life again. But he should get to business. “As it happens, my lady, I have a message from my master. Would you care to join him and some friends in the games room at six o’clock?”
She raised the champagne flute to her lips and smiled enigmatically over its rim. “Why, I believe I must.” With a wink that she probably thought was mysterious, she wandered off.
Well, four more to go.
He spun around as much as his damn knee allowed. David stood before him, glowing like the young god he was. “My lord,” Jonathan said stiffly, to cover up his embarrassment at not having noticed his master approach him.
David crowded closer. His golden hair was slightly ruffled from dancing and his trying in vain to smoothen it with his hand. His eyes glittered like flawless sapphires. His face was flushed, from dancing, or from champagne, or from the heat, or, most likely, all three. His suit hugged his figure in a way that would stir the most inappropriate thoughts in all whose eyes fell upon him.
Jonathan had enjoyed putting him into it very much indeed.
“How are you doing?” David’s voice was almost too quiet for Jonathan to hear over the din of the party.
“I’ve only four more messages to deliver,” Jonathan replied just as quietly.
David smiled. Kingdoms would fall to that smile, Jonathan was sure of it. “Who else are you looking for?”
“Ladies Tannenbay and Featherstonehaugh, as well as Sir Worsley and Lord Aldrige.”
“I saw Lady Featherstonehaugh by the musicians not five minutes ago,” David supplied, “and talked to Lord Aldridge five minutes before that. I delivered the message to him personally.”
“Thank you, my lord.” Only three more. This was beginning to look doable.
“What of our Irish friend?”
Jonathan gave him a frown. “Already waiting, and not at this party, my lord.” Stupid questions received stupid answers. As if Jonathan were foolish enough to take such a risk!
“Of course, of course.” David squeezed Jonathan’s shoulder. “Go find Lady Featherstonehaugh. I’ll talk to Lady Tannenbay and Sir Worsley should I encounter them.”
“Very good, my lord.”
And David fluttered away to be swarmed by another host of admirers. Jonathan allowed himself a moment to admire him, too, then he headed towards the musicians to seek Lady Featherstonehaugh.
First, though, he found Zachariah, one of the Prevost footmen. Since he was idle — which just wouldn’t do at all — Jonathan foisted the damned champagne tray on him. Outranked, Zachariah could do little more than make a sour face.
Lady Featherstonehaugh, it turned out, was in deep conversation with Sir Worsley. She was leaning in an open window, her face quite flushed and a trail of sweat curling the hairs at the nape of her neck. Sir Worsley was forever mopping his brow.
Jonathan told them to meet Lord David in the games room at six o’clock. These two were already in the know and gave him grave nods.
Jonathan wandered off. He cursed himself for his impulsivity in giving the champagne tray away. An idle servant was a servant frowned upon, after all. And a servant noticed.
Jonathan checked his watch. Ten minutes to six. He had to hope Lady Tannenbay had heard from someone else where to meet. He had no time to find her and see that the games room was ready.
Resolutely, he tugged his waistcoat into place and strode off, full of affected purpose. He came across Isaac Turner, the under-butler and valet to the Earl, who was striding in the opposite direction. Isaac raised his eyebrows — all is well, I take it?
Jonathan nodded back, tapping his watch chain. On my way to Lord David’s next appointment.
Isaac nodded and passed him. Jonathan wondered what assignment or task the under-butler was pursuing.
At five minutes to six, Jonathan entered the games room. A few guests were already there, talking to Eóin. They looked up when Jonathan entered and murmured greetings. Eóin gave a sarcastic salute that Jonathan returned in much the same manner.
He rounded the table, counting the chairs. He’d arranged for the games room to be outfitted with enough seats beforehand, citing a cards tournament David was planning with his favourite competitors. The footmen had just rolled their eyes and hopped to it. They were good, hard-working lads, and Jonathan could find not a single fault in the set-up of the room: all eighteen chairs Jonathan had ordered were there. They were all matching, too. Jonathan hadn’t even known the Prevost estate had eighteen matching chairs. Probably, this was Cartwright’s doing. Cartwright’s rigorosity and eye for detail was sometimes a chore, but mostly a blessing. It kept the Prevost household running as smoothly as a Swiss clock.
The games room steadily filled until the small clock on the mantle chimed six. As if he’d been waiting for this cue, David strode in, little elderly Lady Tannenbay on his arm. Jonathan breathed an internal sigh of relief.
David pulled out Lady Tannenbay’s chair for her. She laughed and said something about David being a true charmeur. He bowed his head with a bashful smile.
Jonathan waited while David shook Eóin’s hand and squeezed his shoulder with evident relief. Sotto voce, he asked the Irishman a few questions. Eóin replied in self-deprecating tones.
David caught Jonathan’s eye. He wrapped up his conversation almost immediately and sat by Jonathan’s right hand side.
Jonathan stood and cleared his throat. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said, “let us commence.” He didn’t raise his voice, but everyone hushed and fell silent anyway. All eyes turned to him.
Jonathan looked at them for a moment. Eighteen people, including David and himself, were a little more than the games room could comfortably hold. Jonathan had hand-picked the guests assembled today himself. Though most of Jonathan’s organisation was composed of commoners, the guests here today were, with few exceptions, of the nobility — the occasion providing their cover was Lord David’s birthday party, after all. Each member had their own personal reasons for working with Jonathan. He was certain there were a number who did what they did because they believed it was their moral duty; but he also suspected that just as many were in it for their own personal gains — collecting favours, establishing personal connections, or maybe just to get one over a rival. One or two, he surmised, were in it for the sheer thrill of it. Jonathan thought it best not to pry too deeply into why anyone was here.
“I am glad to see so many old friends today, as well as a number of new faces.” He bowed to Lady Nothomb, Sir Steven, and Mr Howard. Lady Nothomb had gone slightly slack-jawed and her fan hung limply in her hand. He tilted his head at her. “Is something amiss, my lady?” He already knew what she was thinking.
“No, nothing,” she hastened to say. “I had merely assumed that the proceedings would be headed by Lord David.” She gave David a mildly accusatory glare. “It was your name on the invitation, after all.”
“Indeed it was,” David replied, “but I merely provide my connections and finances for Mr Benson to make use of as he sees fit. He is the founder and commander of this operation; I am but his deputy. He has my full loyalty.”
Other members of the ring nodded and some gave a “hear, hear!” or an “and mine!”
Jonathan involuntarily stood straighter. These men and women relied on him. They had faith in him and what he was doing. He could not let them down.
“My lady, your surprise only proves why my operation has been so successful,” he said. “I am but a servant, after all, and routinely overlooked.”
She had the grace to blush, but the pride to hide it behind her fan. “I intended no offence, Mr Benson.”
“And I took none, Lady Nothomb. Now. To business.
“Our previous operation has been a success. Eóin Ó Súilleabháin made it safely out of Ireland.”
Eóin gave a small, cheery wave, but his black eye and the crutch leaning on his chair belied his light-heartedness. A vocal Irish republican, he’d been arrested and about to be tried for high treason with an abysmally small chance of the trial’s going in his favour before Jonathan’s operation extricated him.
Jonathan continued. “I thank Mr Thomas and Sir Worsley for their roles in ensuring Mr Ó Suilleabháin’s swift and safe rescue.”
The pair smiled and made self-deprecating gestures when the rest of the assembly applauded and called ‘Hear, hear!’
“Furthermore, Lady Featherstonehaugh has located an Abyssinian processional cross, missing since 1868. She found, identified, and liberated it all within a single day; in fact, it took her only a little over eighteen hours.”
More applause. Lady Featherstonehaugh hid her face behind her fan. But from where Jonathan was standing, he could see she was not embarrassed in the slightest; her eyes twinkled with pride. And well-deserved it was, too. Jonathan’s own personal best was seventy-two hours.
He waited for the assembly’s enthusiasm to subside. “All that is left is to return the cross. Does anyone here have connections to Abyssinia?” The question was rhetorical. Of course Jonathan knew exactly who here had connections to what country, and how strong those connections were.
Three hands immediately went up; Mr Trebbling said, “I am due to board a steamer to Alexandria on the eighteenth, and have contacts in Abyssinia. If my lady is willing, I can take the cross with me.”
“You have my thanks, Mr Trebbling,” said Lady Featherstonehaugh. “I shall hand you the cross after this meeting.”
“Excellent,” said Jonathan. He clacked his sheaf of notes on the table with great importance. “On to the main reason for my calling you here. Today’s meeting concerns a collection of objets d’art from India, numbering eighteen individual pieces. The crowning jewel of the collection is a series of statuettes of the Dashavatara, the ten major avatars of Vishnu, including a larger statue of Vishnu himself.” While Jonathan talked, David stood and handed out the inventory list and the small etchings he’d commissioned of the pieces. “The group is solid gold and its monetary value immense. The craftsmanship is exquisite. But of even greater importance is its spiritual value. An Englishman looks at them and sees only gold, and would perhaps admire the craftsmanship, too; in any case, mere decoration. But for a Hindu, they are precious items of worship. Would we Christians not rail and rave if our pietàs and crucifixes, or our altar cloths and Eucharist chalices were stolen and spirited away?”
The assembly nodded and murmured their assent. Eóin made a tight fist on the table and his jaw clenched. A Protestant from a predominantly Catholic country, Eóin would not have to imagine what it was like to be forcefully restricted in his religious activities.
Jonathan continued. “The Dashavatara group, as well as several other Hindu statuettes, is currently in the possession of an English nobleman.” Jonathan hesitated. This next bit was not good news, to say the least. He glanced at David, then back at the assembly. “They are in the possession of the Lord Jesse Prevost, the Earl of Spokeham.”
The group gasped almost as one. Several members glanced involuntarily at the door, as if expecting their host to make an entrance befitting a West End melodrama. Jonathan could not blame them. For all the daring heists and foolhardy plots the organisation regularly got up to, they had so far given the Prevost estate a wide berth. Even operations in Spokehamshire made everyone nervous. Too great was the risk of discovery to their leader and founder, and with him, the entire organisation.
“It is a risk, I know,” Jonathan said. “But, I believe, one we must take. The Earl plans to auction the pieces off, and in less than three months. We must act before that. Not only should the Earl not be allowed to profit from looted art, but he plans to sell each piece on its own. He even seeks to separate the grouped pieces, such as the Dashavatara group. He would thus scatter the collection all over the British Isles — and, if we’re particularly unlucky, all over the Empire — which would make their repatriation far more difficult if not near impossible.”
Several members of the assembly nodded and murmured in agreement. They still didn’t look thrilled about the prospect of stealing the bone from right under the hound’s nose, as it were, but nobody gave any signs of protest.
Still, Jonathan knew it was best to be explicit. He locked eyes with several members in turn as he spoke. “As usual, I do not demand anything more of you than you are willing and able to provide.” Jonathan leaned forwards, putting his hands on the table. It was mostly to take some weight off his bad knee, which was hurting more and more by the minute, but it also created an air of familiarity and conspiracy. “The only thing I demand is your discretion. Even if you pull out of this particular operation, I ask that you keep it secret.”
“You can count on me, Mr Benson,” said Sir Worsley. His eyes were as grey and as hard as steel. “Tell me what you need me to do and I shall follow your instructions to the letter.”
“And I,” said Lady Nothomb.
“You’ve got my support, as well,” said Eóin. “If you’ll have an injured refugee.”
And so on it went until every single person around the table had affirmed their willingness — eagerness, really — to participate in this most daring and risky of heists. Jonathan had to bite his lip to keep himself in check, he was so overcome with gratitude, pride, and determination.
The only person who didn’t say anything was David. But that was because David only had to look at Jonathan for Jonathan to know David would follow him right into the fiery pits of hell if Jonathan asked it of him. Without Jonathan asking, in fact.
“My thanks to you all.” Dash it all, but Jonathan couldn’t prevent his voice from wobbling. He cleared his throat. “My thanks to you all, for your belief in our mission. I swear I will do my utmost to prove myself worthy of your trust in me.”
When David, Jonathan right behind him, returned to the ballroom at half past seven, the band struck up a fanfare. Jonathan braced himself. Given the staggering amount of birthday parties David attended in a year, Jonathan should by now be used to an entire ballroom of people singing “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” at the top of their lungs. But every time, he was overwhelmed by the sheer force of the sound. It hit him like a horse at full gallop. He wanted desperately to cover his ears, but he had himself in too tight a grip for that. He was Lord David Prevost’s own valet; he could not be seen flinching at some music like a frightened cat.
David, meanwhile, grinned at the crowd, and applauded with abandon when they were finished. He bowed and bowed and bowed again. He called out a brief thank you speech but Jonathan listened with only half an ear, his gaze drawn to the Earl of Spokeham.
The Earl was watching his son with the utmost pride. Jonathan even fancied he saw a tear shimmer in his eye. And why shouldn’t he be proud? Intelligent, athletic, handsome, and beloved, David was a son most fathers only ever dreamt of.
Jonathan watched the Earl watch his son. Did he suspect anything at all of the treason that eighteen people had just discussed in his very own games room? Did he ever think, even for a moment, that his own son and heir could be part of a conspiracy against him? Did he ever fear that David was not all he seemed to be?
David’s reputation as a party animal was not unfounded. Nor had its construction been entirely organic. It was true that David enjoyed a party — he loved people, he loved immersing himself in their company like others loved a hot bath — but his proclivity to accept any and all invitations was because it gave Jonathan opportunities to meet with and work for his organisation without raising the least bit of suspicion. Everyone fawned over David Prevost coming to their estate; no-one even noticed that he never went anywhere unaccompanied by his valet.
That incident where David had attended one party in Aberdeen and then another in Bath the very same week had been not for David’s enjoyment, but Jonathan’s organisation. Another guest at the party in Aberdeen had handed over a stolen Iroqoius wampum belt, which Jonathan then transported to Bath, given to a guest at that party, who in turn took it to Southampton where it boarded the next ship destined for New York, in the hopes that its original owner or their descendents could be found. A month later, a letter addressed to David but really for Jonathan had arrived at the Prevost estate, reporting that the belt had made it safe and sound across the Atlantic and that while the courier had not been able to find the owners yet, he was in contact with Iroquois representatives and remained optimistic.
Any suspicion that would fall on David was erased by the fact that entire ballrooms of witnesses could swear up and down he had never left the dancefloor once while the theft took place. And in the years since Jonathan had been doing this, not once had anyone thought to ask what David’s valet had been up to.
Did the Earl even notice Jonathan was there? Jonathan took a half step away from David. Let him be overlooked. Let him be forgotten. Let him be ignored. Let people think he was nothing but an unassuming valet. It was the only thing that protected him.
The party eventually wound down. Only a fraction of the guests stayed overnight; most left in a bustling confusion of carriages. Jonathan, Isaac, and Cartwright, as the highest-ranking servants, dashed about for a good hour coordinating the exodus. One carriage had been harnessed with the wrong horses by one of the Prevost stablehands. Cartwright only had to tell the stablehand, “See me in the morning,” to make him go white and send him away trembling. Eventually, though, every carriage had the correct horses and driver, and the guests, some more steady than others, climbed aboard.
Cartwright sent Jonathan to check that the remaining carriages and horses were all taken good care of and Isaac to ensure the guests who’d be staying at the estate all made it to the correct rooms. When those Sisyphean rocks finally stayed on top of their hills, Jonathan went straight to David’s quarters, not even bothering to take the servants’ passages. The hallways were the quickest way. He even ran into David himself, who looked as fresh-faced and sprightly as if it were eight in the morning and not eighteen minutes past midnight.
When David pulled the door closed behind them, Jonathan felt like all the air went out of him at once. He slumped his shoulders, then arched his back. He groaned as the vertebrae clicked and cracked one after the other.
David wasn’t half as knackered. His eyes were still sparkling as much as they had in the ballroom. Jonathan fully believed he could dance for another hour, if not five. With quick, deft fingers, he began undoing the buttons on his dinner jacket.
“No, please,” Jonathan protested.
David stilled. “What?”
“Let me. Please.” Jonathan reached for him.
“My dear Jonathan, you have done so much already tonight.” David pushed his fumbling fingers away and gathered him into an embrace. His lips brushed over the shell of Jonathan’s ear. “You don’t need to work anymore tonight.”
Jonathan buried his face in the curve of David’s wonderful neck. “It isn’t work,” he murmured. “Taking clothes off you is a treat. As is putting them on you.”
“Hm, but you do that every day?” David chuckled and began to sway gently.
Jonathan closed his eyes. “And I count myself a lucky man indeed.”
For a while, they just held each other in silence, swaying like the slowest dancers in the world. Jonathan’s head was awhirl. The Dashavatara heist would prove to be the biggest the organisation would undertake yet. Jonathan was betting everything on the darkest horse in the race, uncertain if it would even finish. Extricating Eóin would look like child’s play.
But in David’s arms, Jonathan could breathe out and let go. In David’s arms, he could have faith and hope.
“Is your leg all right?” David murmured eventually.
“No,” Jonathan replied with some reluctance. David was wont to fuss and worry. But Jonathan was unable and unwilling to lie to him.
“Do you need to put ice on it?”
“Might be a good idea.”
David kissed him briefly. Then he let go of Jonathan and rang for a maid. Jonathan took his dinner jacket off him, savouring every button and hook. He’d just turned to hang it up when the maid came in.
“Ruth, would you be so kind as to fetch me a packet of ice?” Jonathan had no idea how David managed to make his voice so very raspy and tired. “I have a dreadful headache.”
“Of course, my lord.” In his peripheral vision, Jonathan saw her curtsy and leave.
“Thank you,” he said and closed the wardrobe doors.
David touched his hand. “Anytime, my darling.” His voice was immediately back to normal. Jonathan thought David could have a stellar career as an actor. That might actually open all sorts of new doors for the operation. He smiled to himself.
“Hm?” David came closer and hooked his fingers around Jonathan’s.
“Nothing important.” Jonathan kissed him, just a quick brush of lips. Ruth could come back with the ice at any moment, and the household policy was ‘knock and enter,’ not ‘knock and wait to be called.’ Quite vexing, but the Earl valued efficiency to such a degree that not even Cartwright could sway him on the matter. “Your tie next, I think,” Jonathan said.
David just smiled and let Jonathan undress him. Jonathan knew David knew that David would get a chance to return the favour very soon.
By the time David was in his shirtsleeves, Ruth brought the ice wrapped in a towel. David sighed a theatrical sigh of relief, pressed the ice against the side of his head, and bade her good night. Once the door was closed once more, though, David took Jonathan by the shoulders, his shirt flapping half-open around him, and pressed him firmly down on the bed. He knelt down and spread the ice carefully over Jonathan’s bad knee.
Involuntarily, Jonathan sighed. Pain, he found, became an afterthought if it persisted long enough. And one only became aware of it again if it got better or worse.
“Better?” David asked anxiously.
“A little,” Jonathan replied. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply in and out, allowing himself to let go and relax.
David began stroking up Jonathan’s calf. “Would you like a distraction?” His tone of voice left very little doubt as to what kind of distraction he had in mind.
Jonathan opened his eyes and smiled. He took David’s jaw in his palm. “I’d like that very much.” Arousal and — eventually — an orgasm often worked wonders in reducing the everpresent pain gnawing at his knee.
David’s eyes darkened. He took Jonathan’s shoes off, his cheek by Jonathan’s thigh. Then, he opened the fly of Jonathan’s trousers and peeled them off slowly, careful not to jostle Jonathan’s bad knee too much. He then took Jonathan’s underthings off, including his stockings. He smiled when Jonathan’s cock revealed itself, already hardening. When they had first begun their relationship, Jonathan had felt shy and sheepish about David seeing him so bare. Now, it simply felt right.
David’s clever hands stroked Jonathan until Jonathan gasped David’s name and writhed. David just grinned and twisted his wrist in an altogether quite maddening way. “Are you distracted enough?” he asked, his voice lilting with playfulness.
Jonathan met his gaze and shook his head.
David laughed. “Oh no?” He rose, his fingers travelling up Jonathan’s shirt front. Onehanded, he undid Jonathan’s tie. He flung it away without a care, and Jonathan had a brief moment of irritation about how he’d have to press it in the morning, then all thoughts were wiped out by David’s mouth on his.
“Get up,” David breathed, pulling Jonathan’s jacket off him. “Take your clothes off. I want you to fuck me.”
Jonathan chuckled. He set the ice pack aside and rose. “My absolute pleasure. Ah! Shit!” The stab of pain was so sharp Jonathan fell right back on the bed. Stars dotted his vision and the room spun.
“Is everything all right?” David was immediately back to kneeling before him, putting one hand on his knee. All his eagerness had evaporated, replaced with wide-eyed anxiety.
“It just —” Jonathan breathed in and out. “Christ, but it still hurts.” It felt like someone had taken a hammer to his knee and then driven nails in-between the shattered bits.
David looked more distressed than Jonathan. “I shouldn’t have allowed Cartwright to make you work as footman today,” he said, massaging Jonathan’s knee. “All that walking around and for what? So the guests have to wait a minute or two less for their champagne?”
“Cartwright almost didn’t let me work as footman,” Jonathan confessed. He leaned back and let the gentle pressure of David’s ministrations calm the pain. “I insisted, because that way, I had the chance to talk to the members of my operation even more discreetly.”
David said nothing. But his face told it all as he kept massaging Jonathan’s knee.
“David.” Jonathan cupped his cheek. “Come up here, darling.”
“And your leg?” David already had his hand outstretched for the ice.
“Has never once stopped me from doing and getting what I want. So.” He clicked his tongue and jerked his head to the bed. “Up you come, now.”
David swallowed. He stood and pressed Jonathan backwards until Jonathan lay flat on the bed and was gazing up at him.
For a moment, they looked at each other.
Then Jonathan said, “You’ve still got your trousers on.”
“I know, I don’t think I thought this through.”
Jonathan smiled and put his arms behind his head. “Go on, then.” If he couldn’t take David’s clothes off himself, watching him do it was the next best thing.
David straightened. He took the opportunity to lock the door, then began undoing the buttons on his trousers. God, those fingers. Jonathan’s cock twitched appreciatively just from watching. He briefly considered touching himself, then discarded the thought. David was to be savoured.
Evidently, David was too impatient to tease much. Quite too soon, he was in only his underthings, and after a brief moment, had chucked those, too, crawling back to Jonathan bare as on the day he was born. And visibly eager. Jonathan reached out to lazily stroke his hot, red cock with just the tips of his fingers.
“Take this off,” David breathed, moving his hips in time with Jonathan’s hand, and tugged at Jonathan’s shirt.
Jonathan sat up and unbuttoned the shirt. David grabbed it by the hems and pulled it off, throwing it away for it to join his own pile of clothes. He put his hand against his shoulder and pushed him back against the headboard. He was kissing Jonathan on his cheeks, his chest, his neck, his collarbone, even on the tip of his nose.
Jonathan grabbed a cushion and shoved it under his shoulders. Then, he opened the drawer of the bed stand — an awkward affair, as he had to bend his arm almost painfully backwards to reach — and blindly dug around in it until his fingers closed around the bottle of oil. Jonathan grabbed David’s buttocks with his free hand. “Come closer, I can’t reach you like this.”
Immediately, David crawled practically in his lap. The entire time, his lips did not break contact with Jonathan’s skin for even a second.
Jonathan poured oil on his hand, over the cleft between David’s buttocks, on his own cock, even David’s cock.
David laughed. “What did you do that for? That’s not going anywhere.” He paused, then drew back to meet Jonathan’s eye. “Is it?”
“No, I just got carried away a bit,” Jonathan replied. He kissed him, and just as his lips met David’s, he pressed the tip of one finger into David’s hole.
David breathed in and leaned his forehead against Jonathan’s. He had his eyes closed and Jonathan could see his pulse on the side of his throat.
“Tell me if it’s too much,” Jonathan murmured, pushing slowly deeper.
“It’s not,” David replied. He pressed his face into Jonathan’s shoulder. “I just… God!” Jonathan had just buried his finger to the last knuckle. “It’s good,” he said. “Keep going.”
Jonathan slowly thrust his finger in and out of David, murmuring endearments and encouragements the entire time. He poured more oil and added a second finger. David moaned. Sweat began to gather at his temples.
Jonathan’s prick throbbed. A bead of fluid slid down the length of it. But he adamantly refused to touch himself. He was worshipping David right now. He vowed he’d come at David’s touch, in his ass, or not at all.
When Jonathan had three fingers in David’s ass, David reached behind himself. He covered Jonathan’s hand with his own and pressed Jonathan’s fingers in even deeper. Insatiable. Impatient. “Jonathan,” he gasped. “Jonathan, please, put your cock in me already.”
“Are you sure?” Jonathan spread his fingers a little as he pulled halfway out. The glide was smooth, but was it smooth enough…?
“I — hah! Fuck…” David squeezed his eyes shut. “Fucking… do it.”
“All right.” Jonathan kissed David’s temple and pulled his fingers all the way out. He once more reached for the oil. “All right. But tell me when you need me to stop.”
Jonathan almost dropped the bottle. “What?”
David laughed. He took the bottle from Jonathan and poured a generous amount over his right hand. He stroked one long, slow slide up Jonathan’s cock. The sudden contact on his prick, ignored for so long, made Jonathan gasp and arch into David’s deft, slick touch. “I won’t tell you to stop,” David clarified, pumping down. And up. Oh God. Jonathan was going to spend before he even got a chance to fuck David. “Because I won’t need to.” He lifted his hips, and without breaking eye contact, lowered himself down onto Jonathan’s eager, waiting cock.
For a moment, they just breathed, adjusting. Then, David began rocking forward. His left hand was to his side, steadying him. His right, slick and glistening with oil and Jonathan’s fluids, was splayed open on Jonathan’s chest, running through the coarse, dark hair. The rhythm that he found — or did it find him? — was at once incensing and smooth like velvet. It was almost a dance.
Jonathan closed his eyes. No matter how many times he lay with David, every single time was a new revelation. Every touch, every movement, though familiar as the pockets of his waistcoat, came to new, wonderful, electric life. He stroked up and down David’s flanks, thrusting his hips following the rhythm that David had set. As much as he could, anyway. Even those small movements made his thrice-damned knee twinge in discomfort. It proved distracting enough that he eventually stopped altogether.
“Does it hurt?” David asked, breathless. He didn’t stop, but he did slow.
“Just my knee,” Jonathan replied, equally breathless. He squeezed David’s hip reassuringly. “You just keep going like that.”
“All right.” David picked the pace back up. He threw his head back with a gasp, and Jonathan’s awareness narrowed down to his long, beautiful neck, the prominent Adam’s apple, the vein throbbing in the soft underside of his jaw. Jonathan wanted to cover every inch of that neck with his lips and his tongue, like he hadn’t done it countless times before. He tasted him anew every single time.
Jonathan reached for David’s cock, but David shook his head. “No?” Jonathan asked.
David didn’t still even for a moment. He gasped his words in time with the fast, smooth rolling of his hips. “Want to… see if I can come… from just this.”
“Fuck, David,” Jonathan groaned and had to forcefully unclamp his hands from David’s hips lest he leave bruises. “I don’t — fuck! yes — I don’t think I’ll last very long tonight.”
“Go on,” David replied, leaning over, kissing Jonathan, his hands in his hair, getting oil all over him. The changed angle made Jonathan see stars and curl his toes. “Go on,” David repeated. His hands and lips and breath were all over Jonathan. “Come for me, my love, spend inside me, come, please, for me.”
Jonathan gripped the back of David’s head and pulled him close and kissed him, magnetic, desperate, unyielding, and David swallowed his cry when he came like a wave crashing over him and he went under.
David pulled him back up. He was still moving his hips in that same silken rhythm, though much faster now. His cock hung above Jonathan’s stomach, red and heavy and leaking.
“Touch me, Jonathan,” David gasped, evidently having changed his mind. Jonathan was not surprised in the slightest. “Please. I want to — I need to — Ah!” Jonathan was already pulling at his cock with uncoordinated enthusiasm until David moaned Jonathan’s name, arched his back, and came in long, wet pulses over Jonathan’s abdomen.
For a few moments, there was silence safe for their panting. Eventually, David rolled off Jonathan, his movements limp and loose, and got up. He fetched a rag, dipped it in water from the pitcher on the nightstand, and cleaned first Jonathan, then himself. Afterwards, he crawled back into bed and stretched out beside Jonathan, one arm across Jonathan’s chest. “Good?” he murmured.
“Very good.” Jonathan kissed his forehead. “And you?”
“Hm.” David stretched and yawned. “Exquisite as always, my dearest. I could not have wished for a better finale to my birthday celebrations.”
Jonathan smiled and pulled David close to him, chest to chest, hip to hip, skin to skin. He kissed him, pouring all of his love into that kiss.
“I love you, too,” David said, the smile audible in his voice. He made a noise between a hum and a sigh and put his head on Jonathan’s shoulder. After a few moments, his breath deepened.
Jonathan, for his part, was staring off into the gloom of David’s room. His mind, with nothing to occupy it, was restless. Soon, he’d have to get up and go to his own room lest the other servants discover his bed unslept-in and ask awkward questions. And had Lady Featherstonehaugh been able to surreptitiously hand over the Abyssinian cross to Mr Trebbling? Mr Trebbling had not stayed at the Prevost estate, after all. And the Dashavatara —
“Jonathan, stop thinking and go to sleep,” David murmured.
Jonathan started, then smiled. “All right.”
David didn’t reply. He was asleep.
Outside, the crickets chirped and the wind sighed through the trees. Inside, David’s breath was deep and soft and soothing.
Jonathan closed his eyes and put his forehead to David’s. “Happy Birthday, my love,” he whispered. “And many, many happy returns.”