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james says it between clenched teeth. thomas had hoped to settle the worst of james’s tension with light, easy lovemaking, but he sees now in james’s implied question lines of james’s body of wanting to wipe away the tension of having to be in control constantly, of the rigors and watching eyes and guesswork of hiding this, hiding himself, from the navy.

“i cannot make my words less gentle, james, but i can not speak. as for the rest, if you promise to stop me if anything at all happens that you do not want, i will be less than gentle with you. will you tell me?”

james’s voice is begging, but sure. “i am.”

and so thomas, affecting an air of carelessness that immediately smooths lines from james’s brow, tugs the ribbon from james’s queue and fists  hand in his hair, pulling his face up, his neck bent unnaturally to look up at thomas where he stands.

“will you do what i ask of– will you do what i tell you?” he catches himself, corrects himself.

“yes,” james says, and when he shifts slightly and thomas’s hand is at his scalp, tight, he chokes out a noise, a gasp cut through with a groan. it goes through thomas like fire. there is an aura of command that james’s breathless attention lends his words that thomas doesn’t know how to control, but he sees something almost like calm in the set of james’s shoulders, and thomas is beginning to see that this is absolutely something james has needed. whether he knows how to give it to him remains to be seen, but james has promised to stop him if it becomes too much. that has to be enough. abruptly, it isn’t.

“you are to tell me if i do something you do not want.”

james’s sigh is audible, an almost-annoyance cut through it, but thomas is getting a grasp of this now, and when he tightens his hand in james’s hair again and james hisses and grabs at his thighs as if to steady himself, thomas’s words come easily to him.

“i will touch your ankle and you will be still.” it is something james has told him in the past, a weakness in his ankle that drives him near to panic if it’s prodded. he hears james’s breath catch in his throat, and he doesn’t let go of his hair any, in fact he pulls james’s head back further, and james does so, willingly. he feels james’s breath struggling in his throat, catching, releasing, catching, struggling. he prepares to let go, if james cannot do this. he will not do this if james is not able to keep them both safe from hurting him. but after a long moment, james speaks.

“no. no, thomas, i don’t want that.” it’s bitten out, but clear, and thomas’s “of course. thank you,” is hard on its heels. he stoops, presses a kiss to the base of his throat, too gentle for their charade, but whispers a warmer “thank you” in james’s ear as he stands. there is no interruption in the charade, but there is the pink of being praised on the tips of james’s ears.

“you are to stand, and you are to listen.” he has to untangle his hand fom james’s hair as james rockets to a stand, and thomas catches james’s eyes flicker to thomas’s desk. james leads, thomas follows.

“walk over to the desk, and bend.”

james, shocked that thomas, who has always had a preference for their private rooms over the study, for the spaciousness of their bed over the frantic trysts james felt most at ease in, would ask this, hesitates. thomas’s voice is sharp as a whip, soft as silk.

do i need to ask you twice?”

“no, sir,” james says, and there is a moment where they freeze. it is a moment where thomas considers disbanding the charade, moving to terrain more familiar, but there is only momentary embarrassment hot in james’s eyes, no shame, no worry, and so he finds he is comfortable nodding, watching james walk to the desk and bend, hands folded neatly behind his back, even with his torso pressed against the surface. thomas had pictured james walking around to the side where thomas normally sat, but as he watches james bend over the other one, he realizes with a rush of heat that james has likely pictured this, and it is with an eye for the tension of the charade that he approaches james slowly, watches him shift at his proximity.

he takes too long, and james, clearly almost thrown out the moment, says “thomas, i didn’t ask you to make a show of me, i said to fuck me hard. stop making an operetta of this, for god’s sake.” and thomas has to stop a laugh.

“yes, yes, sorry, of course, james.” and he fetches the slick that he’s stored in a piece on the shelf, and comes back. when he reaches around james to unbutton his trousers, though, the charade comes slamming back when he tsks chidingly at james’s shift and james’s throat clicks as he swallows. minding his pacing, thomas unbuttons his trousers, reaches under his vest to pull his shirt free, and bares him to the air in one push. james’s punched-out groan is encouragement as thomas frees himself from his trousers, slicking one finger gently into james before withdrawing, asking briefly, “more?” only to check with james’s head shake, his forehead pressed into the desk surface. thomas slicks himself, lines himself up, and presses in, stopping when james’s breath hitches, letting him adjust before continuing, bit by bit, gently inch by inch until he is fully seated in james. he finds as he goes that one of his hands comes to hold james’s wrists together as james struggles with the focus to keep them locked behind him, and the way james’s shoulder’s slump as he applies the slightest pressure reaches him even through the haze of james’s tightness around him. he presses down as he seats himself the last way, and a moan rips out of james like a tear in fabric. thomas hesistates, but james’s begging, inarticulate noise is enough to bring him fully to a dedication to his task.

he thrusts once first, slowly, a full unseating and reseating, a final act of caution, of distribution of slick, but then he leans his weight into james’s back his arms, stands wide and leans the weight of his height into james as he begins to fuck into him, fast, rough, and with the knowledge imparted to him by years of kind, if fleeting, lovers. he keeps their advice, their words in mind as he decides on an angle, presses james into the desk and affects a callousness that he does not feel, fucking deep into him in a way that likely still partly burns, fucking up against his prostate every time he shifts his stance, moving the hand braced on the table down to james’s still uniform-clad hips to pull him back to thomas with every forward stroke. james’s voice is loud, then quiets, and a bonelessness seeps through him as thomas fucks him, a low noise in his throat that builds as thomas intensifies the pace, leans more into him, presses into him with his entire weight.

the first time the desk shifts, james’s neck flushes and he bucks, and thomas, aflame as he is, realizes that it is in part the disarray that they are creating that causes this in james. he chooses then to be less careful about the state of the study, shifting the desk with every stroke, pushing aside the chairs, pressing james into the lacquer of the table while pulling him to thomas, james no doubt able to feel the scrape of his uniform’s buttons into the polish of the surface. their movements cant james’s hips as thomas unintentionally brings himself closer between james’s legs, partially supporting him, and the new position lines up with james’s prostate, and a low babble of “christ, thomas, don’t stop, this is– fuck, don’t stop thomas please,”

and thomas, as james begins to truly shake in earnest and as he begins to feel the warmth of abandon beginning to crest, leans his body down into james’s, pinning him onto the desk, and murmurs into the shell of his ear.

“you should see how beautiful you are like this. it’s a wonder i don’t have you painted, spread out like this as you are.”

and james chokes, and tenses, and shakes, and thomas’s hand, newly free, strokes james the last few paces to orgasm, a trembling twenty seconds of unending praise, of james’s beauty, his voice.

and when he finally says, “christ, james, and how wonderfully you yield,” james cries out and shakes over the edge under him, and thomas only then, as his own resolve fails and he chases the cresting wave of his own release, peppers james’s neck and upper back with kisses and gentle bites, unformed praise and repeated beautiful until he, at the last moment, removes himself and spills onto the desk. he had thought of james’s comfort, but as the boneless heat seeps into him, he meets james’s eyes, who is looking between him and the come on his desk wordlessly, partly just shocked. after several breaths, thomas speaks.

“didn’t want— to inconvenience you—” and james, lovely james, just laughs at him. and it’s a deeply contented, well-fucked chuckle that started in his belly and echoed through him like bells, a sound thomas hadn’t heard except once, and he leans over to kiss james’s shoulder, and james, after a moment, says “thank you.” before thomas can say anything he adds, “if you want to fuck for hours while reciting poetry in greek in bed next time, we can.” and thomas’s shocked protestations draw from him another set of deep belly laughs as thomas resolves that perhaps they will do this more often.