the reluctant lobotomist (fourfreedoms) wrote,
the reluctant lobotomist
fourfreedoms

Fic: You're A Rare Earth Magnet and Other Ways to Say I Love You

Title: You're A Rare Earth Magnet and Other Ways to Say I Love You
Author: fourfreedoms
Fandom: Generation Kill
Pairing: Brad/Nate
Word Count: 5,393
Rating: R
Summary: A sequel to this fic. Nate knows what Brad wants, and he knows what he wants, but he also knows what society wants.
Notes: A christmas present for tikiaceae who wanted a sequel to "His Grace's First Kiss." I'm sorry this took me so long. I've had this finished since before Christmas, but after all the crazy things that happened, it took me a while to just post it. Thanks to oxoniensis for the beta, and also ericaplease for all the reassurances.




This is based on a world where Prince Robert Bruce Stewart didn’t die at four months, but lived to carry on his title and that John Paul Stafford-Howard’s line didn’t fail and consequently no attainder reverting the title back to a barony.

*

There’s a future where Lord Nathaniel Stewart Stafford-Howard, Duke of Kintyre and Lorne, Marquess of Wigton, Earl of Carrick, Earl of Stafford, and Baron of Annandale is considered one of the most dangerous men in the realm. Not for a martial or military prowess, or for the fact that he’s 57th in line for the throne. It is both less and more quantifiable than that. The Duke is, put simply, the most brilliant scientist the empire has ever seen. Nobody is quite sure where it comes from, certainly not his parents, who pride themselves on being quite respectable and ordinary in all things besides good breeding of which they are society’s paragons. The Duke’s idiosyncrasies are through no fault of theirs. They certainly had made their best effort, but he never took to polo or shooting or looking fashionably turned out as any young gentleman might hope to occupy himself.

But a scientist, however clever, doesn’t usually inspire such fear and awe in the population. Certainly not out of people who can’t appropriately grasp his capabilities and contributions.

There is another more tangent reason: the shadowy figure at his shoulder, a knight to Nate’s bishop, who is whispered about on the grotty streets of Whitechapel and Cheapside, the forgotten and dank places, the opium dens and gambling hells—a veritable king of the underworld. The thief lord who stands attendant on the crown’s best scientist. The duke is not to be crossed, because such people often come to a premature and altogether nasty end. Polite circles do not speak of this alliance openly, although it is often whispered behind fans and over games of whist, that Kintyre and Lorne is involved with Colbert that way. The Greek way.

But we are not at that future yet.

*

Nate is quite certain, for all that his education of romance is limited, that men are not supposed to kiss other men. And that the men kissed by other men are not supposed to like it. He unfortunately defies the latter category. And while Nate is quite used to being an outsider, tinkering and puttering about in the dirt, when the other children were playing tag and hide-and-seek, and then later, locking himself into the library when other young men were out carousing at all hours—trying to tumble every loose skirt. He’s used to the villagers on his father’s estate calling him an odd duck, even if it’s in a kindly way, while the more distinguished members of the ton are quite happy to dismiss him as inappropriate.

Nate has learned to accept that the price of his experiments is this censure. He’s glad to pay it. However, he’s not altogether sure how he feels about Brad cornering him against his desk and pressing between his thighs, stealing kisses while he’s in the middle of testing a better light bulb. He’s pretty sure it’s all kinds of wrong that he’s moaning like a wanton slut (not that Nate knows much about wanton sluts, but it seems like something they would do), letting Brad press a strong thigh against more delicate parts of him.

“Stop it!” he says finally, remembering himself. He thrusts Brad away from him and drags the back of his hand across his mouth. “We shouldn’t give in to baser urges!”

Brad goes with a quick peck that Nate isn’t fast enough to dodge and laughs. “Of course, my lord,” he replies mockingly, ducking out of the room as Nate throws a pair of pliers at his retreating back. The door slams shut and the pliers bounce harmlessly off.

“Blast,” he says, picking the tool up and trying to scissor it open. He'll have to buy a new pair now.

*

He avoids the little garret lab that Brad had set up for him for two weeks, driving Ashton thoroughly insane with his experiments at all hours of the night. His mama takes advantage of the time at home by desperately trying to introduce him to the eligible ladies that move within their circles, and even some that do not out of sheer desperation. She hastily abandons the pursuit after he showed Miss Arabella D’Arcy his contraption for warming cold tea. The impressionable young lady had been determined to see the rest of Nate’s devices, walking away with a metal-bladed fan that could be hurled at attackers, before returning unerringly to the hand like a boomerang.

“She’s been talking about taking up fencing, Nathaniel!” the Duchess cried. “I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life!”

Nate is only sorry he hadn’t figured out a way to make the fan lighter. An alloy maybe, he’ll have to experiment with a smelting furnace, if he can get his wits about him. Experiments aren’t coming together as well as he would like, ideas running through his mind like sludge rather than quicksilver. He can’t seem to stop making stupid miscalculations and the house is continually ringing with the sound of explosions.

His father finds refuge in the fact that Parliament is in session and is rarely found about the house. Although he does find himself explaining the loud banging at all hours to his neighbors rather more often than he would like.

A missive comes from Brad when Nate’s haunting the kitchen for sodium bicarbonate. It’s borne by a fox-faced little boy who impresses cook enough to give him an entire slice of chocolate cake. “There’s a good lad,” she says, pinching his cheek.

Nate is not entirely convinced the “lad” is a lad at all. He tips her a tuppence and then throws the missive unread into the refuse bin, thoroughly denying the blush making his cheeks burn. It later appears on his desk so Nate can only assume Ashton decided to fish it out.

“Sir, if you would at least consider a spot of tea?” Ashton asks, stone-faced, watching Nate tinker over a rapidly sparking and smoking machine. He ducks when a bolt comes flying off the machine with a metallic ping without a break in his question.

“For heaven’s sake, Ashton, if you must bother me during my work, at least have the good sense to wear the protective gear I provided you!” he says, shutting down the connections on the machine so that electricity stops flowing through it.

“Of course, Sir,” Ashton replies blithely. “Tea?”

Nate pulls off his goggles and tosses them aside with a growl. “Yes, yes, fine, tea!”

Ashton rings the kitchens and moments later a footman comes staggering up the stairs with a heavily loaded tray too large for the dumbwaiter.

Nate decides to ignore Ashton’s attempt to feed him unasked and helps himself to a scone without taking his protective leather gloves off. The machine in the corner is still hissing steam and the footman departs rapidly. Ashton remains stoic.

“Will there be anything else, Sir?” he asks. Nate can see him plotting how to get him properly dressed from the way his eyes run over his grease-stained shirt sleeves and unknotted neckerchief.

“You know, Ashton,” Nate says, taking a large bite that he barely tastes. “I wonder if we could devise some kind of lift, one for a person, mind you, so that you wouldn’t have to be continually hoisting trays about. Perhaps using hydraulics, hmm.”

“That is perfectly unnecessary, sir, the servants and I manage just fine,” Ashton replied.

Three days later he strongly suggests that Nate consider going back to the garret room.

*

“You may not kiss me, Colbert!” Nate tells him when he finally summons up the courage to return to The Devilish Hound.

“All right,” Brad says easily.

Too easily, Nate thinks, narrowing his eyes. “A man of science cannot be distracted by such bestial instincts. It is unseemly.”

“All right, I won’t kiss you,” he repeats gravely, folding up his paper and summoning Meg to rustle up a steak and kidney pie. “You’ve been forgetting to eat again, my lord.”

He sits down to eat it only after Brad gives him The Look, the same look Brad lays upon criminals who do not respect his territory. The look that is famed throughout London for the absolute terror it strikes in the hearts of men. The look that later forces him to acquiesce to a cup of chocolate he is quite sure he doesn’t need.

Two hours later he’s figured out solutions to all of the problems that were troubling him on his various devices and has drawn out preliminary sketches for a hydraulic elevator.

Brad comes in when he’s in the middle of calculations over the cables that will suspend it, because surely a rope and pulley system would end only in disaster.

“Are your parents keeping you away?” Brad asks, coming to stand at his shoulder.

“Hardly,” Nate replies. “I reach my majority in six months.”

“Ah, so it’s you then,” Brad says, and suddenly his hands are snaking around Nate’s waist, drawing him back against Brad. He nuzzles the exposed column of his neck and then says, huskily, “You never said anything about biting you.”

He nibbles at the lobe of Nate’s ear, causing him to tense up and tremble in his arms.

“Colbert, if you think—” he breaks off with something that sounds mortifyingly like a squeak when Brad’s tongue follows the same trail as his teeth. He can’t help leaning back into Brad’s firm chest, moving into the touch. Horrible. He really has no control at all.

And just like that Brad backs off, straightening his cuffs. “I’ve some business that will take me away for a few days. You’re welcome to stay here.” And then he’s gone as quickly and soundlessly as he came, leaving Nate propping himself unsteadily up on his table.

He sinks into his chair with his head in his hands. It would probably be cheating to devise some compound that would eradicate any lustful desires on his part. Yes, definitely cheating.

*

Brad leaves Ray behind, ostensibly because he was injured in a knife fight. While he does have a very large bandage and his arm done up in a sling, Nate is well aware that it’s to look after him.

“What does he think I’m going to do?” Nate asks belligerently after Ray interrupts an experiment a third time in as many hours. “Trip and fall on somebody’s knife? Run screaming out onto the street and demand to be ransomed?”

Ray chortles merrily like that is exactly what everyone thought, but doesn’t answer, settling himself in the lab like he owns the place. Later, Nate catches him playing with an incomplete clockwork frog he’s making for Meg’s little boy, Laurence. “Make yourself useful and crank that generator,” he says, snatching the intricate machine away after Ray bends a leg the wrong way.

Ray obligingly cranks the generator, but not without commentary. “About how large would you say Brad’s member is? Walt and I have a bet going with Poke.” He doesn’t stop at Nate’s shocked pause in the middle of his work or wait for an answer. “It’s large, right? I always assumed it must be.”

“Damn!” Nate cries after shocking himself with the built up static charge. He only barely resists the urge to hurl all of his tools about. “How in all the seven hells would I be in a state to comment on Colbert’s manhood?”

Ray raises a brow. “Well, I just thought, since you’d seen it and all. None of the ladies of Brad’s acquaintance have been willing to impart any useful information.”

“I should like to point out that I have most assuredly not seen it!”

“Here now,” Ray says, stopping the crank. “You’re not ashamed of it are you?”

“Mr. Person, I may have very little dignity left,” he answers gravely, “but I will not have this conversation with you!”

“Why not? I know things!”

“Just last week you sang a song of…shall we say country matters to Jane Butcher only to get soundly boxed on the ear and completely end the Hound’s grain delivery from her father. Thus forcing Meg to buy flour from Andy Wainright who everybody knows charges two pounds too many a bushel.”

“Mmm,” Ray replies, looking off into the corner thoughtfully. He starts cranking the generator again, and the current spikes up a second time. “That was a slight miscalculation.”

Nate snorts, fiddling slightly with an iron filament. He doesn’t bother to hold back a laugh when Ray yelps from a healthy shock. “Let that be a lesson to you! No more indecorous questions.”

Ray sucks on his fingers, pouting. “And people say Brad is the frightening one!”

Nate quirks an eyebrow and raises the filament a second time.

*

Brad returns to a raucous party in the Hound’s front room, tankards of good beer and finer whiskey flowing like rivers. All of Brad’s moonlighters are there—including Poke, a mongrel Spaniard by way of America and Doc Bryan, the almost always soused former naval doctor who now stitches up criminals and bludgers. Nate likes them best of all, partially because they have other pursuits than sex and betting on the races.

“Milord,” Brad interrupts, queerly amused, while Nate is deep into his pint over a conversation of metal prosthetics with Doc. There’s a stoic long-faced man at his shoulder, who eyes Nate up and down.

“Don’t call me that,” Nate protests.

Brad ignores him. “Word about town is that you’re looking for a new man.”

“A what?” Nate repeats, squinting at him.

“A valet,” Brad repeats, like he’s speaking to a dim child.

“I don’t need a valet! Ashton does me just fine.”

He doesn’t understand why everybody around the table seems to be fighting back sniggers.

“Word is you run him right ragged,” Brad returns. “May I present Michael Wynn. Your new manservant.”

“How do you do,” Nate’s gently bred manners assert themselves and he offers his hand for a shake. And then his brain catches up with the rest of him. “Colbert! I abjure you, I do not need a manservant!”

Brad ignores him, tugging him up out of his seat and drawing him up the stairs despite his protests. Doc gives him a jaunty wave before he disappears up the stairs.

“See here, Colbert, I was just—”

Brad silences him by pushing close when they’re in front of the door to his rooms, running his thumb over Nate’s lower lip. Nate resists the urge to run his tongue in its wake.

He stares up at him wide-eyed, unable to understand this heat running though his body. But it’s wrong, so wrong. He is already the greatest failure of a peer in all of Great Britain. A funny one as they say. For all he hides behind letters and science and being a man of reason, it comes down to that.

“You just want to keep an eye on me,” he says softly.

Brad doesn’t deny it, just keeps staring down at him with darkened blue eyes that make Nate shiver from feelings he can’t quite parse out. “I promised I wouldn’t kiss you…” he says, voice rough.

“Brad,” he says, pleading. But Brad draws a hand up his spine, forcing his back into an arch and pushing their hips together. The friction is sweet, and Nate is lost.

He kisses Brad, tugging his head down to get more of him. The height difference is not much, but it’s enough that Nate, who has often felt vulnerable, feels completely safe and protected. Brad coaxes his lips to part, kissing him like he’s just as consumed as Nate is. But how can that be? Nate feels completely off his head.

Brad pushes him back against the door, shifting against Nate deliberately again and again until Nate knows he’s not far at all from losing all his pride, and coming right there against Brad’s thigh.

It’s a sobering thought and he thrusts Brad away with a distressed cry, hand over his mouth.

“Enough,” he says, trembling “I disgrace myself.”

He turn away. It would be a physical blow to look at Brad right now. He doesn’t want to know what’s on his face—pity, disgust, mockery. He wouldn’t be able to take it.

A hand comes down on his shoulder, a completely unsexual gesture. “I have some tricky German that needs translating, if you wouldn’t mind, my lord,” Brad says quietly, allowing him a way out.

Nate shrugs the arm off and turns. “Right, right, a translation—yes I could, I could do that.”

When he stumbles out, an hour later, still unsettled and buzzing from that mind-blowing kiss, he finds Wynn leaning up against the door opposite, arms crossed.

Nate runs his eyes over him in assessment, taking in the broad shoulders and the well-muscled arms of a bruiser. He doesn’t raise an eyebrow at Nate’s obvious state of mental distress. Well, he’ll do, even if he is to be Nate’s nanny.

*

Nate quickly finds Wynn invaluable. He’s a keen enough mind for Nate’s experiments to actually be a help rather than a hindrance. He doesn’t mind acting as a sounding board or take issue with the odd hours Nate keeps. He keeps Nate fed and watered and sane with better equanimity than Ashton ever could and therefore wins the household servants’ eternal devotion. Even Nate’s parents are enamored with his quiet efficiency.

Soon Nate trusts him to procure all the materials he needs and to handle Nate’s split-schedule. He sees to Nate’s boot man and his tailor, and every time he’s back at the Hound Brad seems to feel a pressing urge to point out how much better dressed he is. Nate is not ashamed to admit his life is running much smoother than before. He’s not a begrudging sort, although it does rankle that Brad doesn’t trust him to go two footsteps by himself.

At Lady Markham’s New Years Masked Ball, he remains at Nate’s shoulder like the secretary he has become, and Nate realizes he will have to speak to Ashton about raising his wages.

“Sir,” Wynn says quietly while Nate is in the middle of winning a game of cards. Nate looks up and follows Wynn’s gaze to a familiar figure in ghoulish red mask striding across the hall.

He clears his throat. “I’m out, gentleman,” he says, throwing his cards down on the table and pulling the pile of bank notes he’s acquired towards him.

The other members at the table sigh in relief, one dandy remarking, “Thank the lord, Annandale, I think you must have worked a deal with the devil for your beastly talent at cards.”

Nate salutes him with his glass of port and then walks off, allowing Wynn to deal with the rest of his winnings. He follows Brad out into the cold night air of the balcony. It is well dark, but far too cold for any amorous couples seeking an unlit corner.

“How on earth did you get in without an invitation?” Nate asks Brad’s broad back as he closes a French door behind him. He’s dressed as an understated, but nevertheless obvious Mephistopheles.

“This vulgar and ostentatious display of unrestrained wealth is hardly the impenetrable fortress my lord and lady Markham seem to think it is,” he says simply. “What are you? A puritan?”

“Sir Isaac Newton,” Nate replies, voice dry. “Why are you here?”

Brad sweeps him back against the balcony railing, fingering the edge of Nate’s slim domino. He shivers and wishes more than ever that he could see Brad’s expression. “Does a man need a reason to be with a friend at the birth of the new year?”

“Colbert,” Nate protests, but Brad pushes back the devil mask and kisses him. The air is frosty, but Brad’s mouth is hot, burning away Nate’s objections. For the first time he allows himself to imagine what it would be like to join Brad in his bed.

He shouldn’t be surprised that Brad manages to get a hand into his trousers and through his small-clothes with him barely noticing. The man is a thief after all, but Nate is still taken aback by the sensation of Brad’s hand closing around him—the first time anybody else has ever touched him here. Nate cries out into Brad’s mouth, body going rigid.

It’s too much, far too much—he’s going to come on Lady Markham’s god bedamned balcony. He is the worst sort of reprobate alive, but he can’t ask Brad to stop. Nothing ever feels as good as when he’s touching Brad, allowing Brad to touch him. Not even successfully proving an impossible-sounding hypothesis. He wants—

They’re interrupted by the sound of a clearing throat. “Excuse me, Colbert, but my lord’s mother is looking for him.”

Brad groans and drops his head to nuzzle at Nate’s neck. Nate doesn’t want to let him go, but he also doesn’t want his mother to find him in the embrace of London’s most notorious criminal, small clothes undone and costume all in disarray.

“Let me go,” he pleads, softly, head ducked in shame. “O god, please let me go.”

Brad backs up, hands raised in supplication. Nate draws in a rattling breath, and hastily does up his breeches. His fingers are unsteady and it takes him several tries to do them up properly. With a deep breath, he straightens his coat and nods at Wynn.

Every step away from Brad brings a clearer head. There’s no telling what regrettable way the night would’ve ended.

“Bonne année,” he says in the language of Brad’s forebears and follows Wynn back into the ballroom, unsure why he feels so wretched when he made the right choice.

*

He doesn’t see Brad for a while after that. He’s not avoiding him, it’s just that one of Doc’s patients, a child who lost a hand for stealing bread, brings the chance to try out his ideas for a clockwork prosthetic limb. It’s the hardest most elaborate work he’s ever done and he spends almost all of his spare time pouring over anatomy texts and getting permission to watch dissections in surgical theaters.

It keeps him up late at night and Wynn makes him cup after cup of coffee and then feeds him snifters full of brandy to get him to come down again. He threatens to dose Nate with a tincture of opium after three straight days without sleep.

“The work is important!” Nate protests, testing the copper wire connections that will influence the false fingers. His clockwork hand unfurls and then forms into a fist.

“You’re starting to sound more manic than Person, sir,” Wynn says. “Don’t make me fetch Brad to toss you into bed.”

Nate blushes furiously and when he looks up he finds Wynn eyeing him knowingly. “Sir, if I may, why are you fighting it so hard?” he asks.

“If I sleep now, I might lose the stream of ideas,” Nate replies, deliberately misunderstanding Wynn’s actual question.

Wynn sighs. “One more hour, sir and then I will go out and get Brad to truss you up and throw you into bed.”

Nate flaps a hand at him and he leaves, muttering.

*

When the hand is finished and the child can play catch and tie his shoes just like he used to Nate calls it a victory. The boy’s face shining with awe and happiness reminds him that he doesn’t just do this for the joy of science, but to help people. There are so many out there whose lives could be made better, who need to be taken care of, the way his money and status has so easily provided for him. This is his calling. To hell with what his mama thinks, none of that matters in the face of this one child’s unfettered elation. Doc claps him on the back.

“Smashing job, lad,” he says as they watch the boy wiggle his fingers wonderingly.

Nate nods, swallowing hard. He doesn’t know why he’s suddenly fighting back tears. Brad would understand. He understands these things much better than Nate, for all that he is a fearless thief lord who has only escaped Newgate by the grace of his wits and mercilessness of his heart.

He hires a hansom cab, or rather Wynn hires the hansom cab, because half the time Nate can’t be bothered to remember practicalities like his purse. But Wynn is clearly glad to do it and as they head towards the Hound he looks on Nate with a face rich with approval.

Nate stares determinedly out the carriage.

They arrive at the Hound and Wynn tips the driver while Nate heads for the Hound’s door. He stops when he sees Brad through the window, sitting in his usual chair, with a buxom redhead astride his lap. He swallows, suddenly dry-mouthed, as he watches her bend forward, head amorously inclined to offer herself up for a kiss. Brad laughs at something she says, broad hands spanning her waist.

“Sir, I don’t think—” Wynn starts to say, but Nate puts up a hand.

“I’ve had a change of heart, back to Grosvenor Square,” he says in a voice deadened of all emotion, turning swiftly on his heel. Wynn hails another hansom without protest.

*

Nate gets back to the townhouse and heads straight for his rooms without so much as a hello for Ashton who obligingly opened the door. He knows it was rude, but he’s quite sure if he starts speaking he’s only going to start caterwauling like some…some…jealous girl. And that absolutely could not be borne.

Nate feels a sudden desperate yearning for Staffordshire, roaming the hills around the falling down ruin of Stafford castle. When he thinks about it more closely, he yearns to be anywhere but in town where every little minute thing is threaded through with Brad. He’s lost him. Timbuktu couldn’t be far enough, but Nate is a reasonable person, and decamping to the Americas or the Orient would not be easily accomplished. There are a million places he could go to—Drayton Manor, Thornbury Castle, Haselour Hall, and Castle Howard all within a short distance. His parents would likely be glad for him to quit London and he already has a lab set up at Drayton.

Ashton eyes him carefully when he comes in with the morning post Nate missed with his mad dash to Doc’s practice in Whitechapel.

“You’re muttering, sir,” he says, holding a stack of letters in a gloved hand. Nate knows they’re mostly invitations for parties and fêtes he doesn’t want to attend and he sets the pile down absently. “Should I have Wynn fetch anything for you?”

“I think I should like to be left alone, Ashton,” Nate says, softly. “Tell Wynn he has the afternoon off.”

There’s a long pause and then Ashton finally says, “Very good, sir.”

Nate throws himself onto his bed, not even bothering to remove his boots. His mother would have fits if she could see him. The thought cheers him a little—that much will never change. He has a very strong desire to beat his head against the headboard. Perhaps the ensuing concussion would knock out all the foolishness currently tumbling around in there.

Would it be possible to design a chemical that would render his less than pleasant emotions null and void? He would run the risk of anaesthetizing himself entirely, but he’d probably be able to work all the better without anything to distract him like attachments or petty jealousies. It bore thinking about. Also a bath, yes a bath would be good.

He sent for Ashton to draw him one. Baths always made everything better.

*

He’s climbing out of the tub when Brad slips into the room via the balcony. Brad is deathly silent and perhaps another person would not even have noticed his sudden appearance, but Nate is attuned to him he’d probably be able to feel him in the room even if it was filled with a Queen’s Regiment and a brass band banging away at all manner of instruments.

It takes everything him in him not to crumble. Why is Brad here, when he has so obviously tired of Nate? Not that he doesn’t understand. He would tire of somebody who has a moral quandary every time they were to share a glance. But intellectualizing it doesn’t make the wound any less.

“Colbert, there are doorbells and servants for a reason,” he says, voice as steady as he can make it. He continues toweling off like Brad’s eyes on his naked body don’t have an effect on him.

“You’re very lovely,” Brad says, voice soft.

Nate freezes, head bent, eye clenched shut tight. The hope blossoming in his breast will turn into agony if Brad’s playing with him.

Brad comes up behind him, arms sliding around his waist. Nate shakes in his hold, feeling like he’s going to cry or come apart into a million pieces that all the kings men will never be able to put back together again.

Brad’s mouth skims over his bowed neck, rapidly going from chaste to wet and depraved in seconds. Nate could stop him. Society would tell him it was imperative to do so. But he will never be like them, will he? And if he can’t have this, what then, is the point? He doesn’t stop Brad. Not when Brad forces his neck back at an impossible angle to meet his mouth. Not when his hand slides down the trembling muscles in Nate’s abdomen to wrap around his hardened cock. Not when Brad whispers ‘I love you.’

He brings Nate off with his hand, holding Nate up when his knees threaten to fail, and talking him through his orgasm. Afterwards he lays Nate out on his bed, laying over him, still completely dressed. Nate has to shut his eyes against the look on his face.

“I know what men do in bed…” he says, voice ragged. “I want…I want…”

Brad kisses him to shut him up. “Not tonight, not yet,” he says, although the gravelly edge of his voice belies the restraint he’s showing. He undresses himself while Nate watches, breathless. Brad is beautiful, a blond Nordic god. He blankets Nate with body, thrusting wetly against his hip until he reaches completion. The sound he makes, just on the knife edge of pain, nearly brings Nate back to hardness.

When Brad moves to pull away, Nate hangs on, holding him in his arms. “Stay. Stay with me,” he says, pressing a kiss to Brad’s shoulder. He doesn’t know why someone as vibrant and charismatic as Brad chose him. What it is he sees in Nate when everybody else sees only peculiarity, but it doesn’t matter if every day he gets to feel like this.

*

Years later…

“I’m not sure it’s the done thing to go installing your kept man in a monastery,” Captain Patterson says, castling his rook king side.

“Pawn G7 to G5,” Nate says after throwing back a long swallow of brandy. “It’s a former monastery. And I quite like Forde Abbey, I had to nearly badger Colbert half to death to get him to accept it.”

“You’re the talk of every drawing room in the empire,” Captain Patterson replies, slowly scanning the board. He cries, “Oh, you great bastard!”

Nate laughs, triumphantly looking on as Captain Patterson tips over his king.

“Let’s talk business,” Nate says, leaning back in his chair and crossing his legs. He clears his throat. “I have successfully reverse engineered the prototypes your boys seized in Anatolia. Colbert’s sources tell me that similar prototypes have been spotted in seven different cities on the continent.”

“And that is why we let you get away with purchasing a bloody great house just so you can flaunt your recidivistic lover under all our noses, my lord,” Patterson says dryly. He takes a sip from his own snifter. “That and you do have the best stores of cognac.”

“I’ll tell Colbert you said so, Captain.”

“You will not!” the captain replied heatedly. “I will not have that blackguard think I complimented him.”
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