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Take Your Turn, Take A Ride

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„You know I wouldn’t ask you to come with me if I didn’t think you’d enjoy yourself.”

„James, truthfully, have you ever seen me enjoy myself at a party?”

His friend does not in fact answer truthfully, but instead gives him an infuriating little smile.

„It’s been too long since you went out, Francis. I hate to think of you spending your days in these miserable glum rooms by yourself. This is the perfect opportunity to enjoy some company.”

„There are very few people who enjoy my company, and you know it.”

Francis hates how petulant he sounds, but he is not yet willing to give in. Besides, he is only telling the truth.

„I enjoy your company.”, James says matter-of-factly, and Francis is once more reminded how lucky he is to call him his friend.

„And I yours. Which is why I propose we spend said evening among ourselves, debating trivial matters. We are having a capital time with it tonight, aren’t we?”

James’ smile is turning into a hearty chuckle and Francis is content, having proven his point. However, he knows that his friend is not going to let this matter rest. He watches him shake his head and take a swig of his ale before turning to him in earnest.

„I won’t press you further, tell me to stop now and I will, but-”, he holds up a finger even though Francis has made no attempt to interrupt him, „I have to tell you, you will miss out on an event unlike any you have attended so far.”

Francis has attended enough social gatherings to know that he is not likely to encounter one so different it would outweigh his discomfort. It is the noise, the incessant chattering about nothing of importance that grates on his nerves, although it does not help that the sound is likely to stop every time he approaches a group of people and turns into an awkward silence instead. Of course, James must be unfamiliar with these sorts of situations.

James leans back in his chair, a secretive smile dancing on his lips. „It’s Sir Le Blanc who is hosting the ball, and he is very selective in his choice of guests. It won’t be your usual crowd. I am allowed to choose someone to accompany me.”

Francis thinks it is very bold of James to attempt to undermine Sir Le Blanc’s selective choices so severely by taking along the most miserable bore in all of London, but he does not remark on it. Instead, he sends one last pleading look towards James, who by now must be convinced that he is going to win this argument. And sure enough, his friend continues, „There won’t be anyone closely related to the Admiralty attending, of that I am sure.”

It is quite clear what he is implying. The last time Francis had encountered Sir John Franklin, it had been a terribly awkward experience. They had both been civil, but the memory of his shameful retreat from the Franklins’ house after his proposal to Sophia had still been fresh in his mind. It had made for a rather forced conversation about the upcoming expedition. He is glad that James doesn’t know the full extent of his humiliation, and that he is not likely to delve deeper into the topic. He doesn’t think he could bear his friend’s quiet sort of pity.

God, but he has become a miserable old sod.

He sets down his glass with more vigour than necessary and curses himself for what he is about to say.

„Well, if you insist, James, then I have no choice but to accompany you.”

The room is stuffy, and the music far too loud - loud enough that everyone around Francis keep their conversations going by almost yelling at each other, although the amount of punch being consumed may be to blame for this as well. Francis is grateful that the host was generous enough to provide something stronger from his personal cabinet as well, otherwise he might have abandoned this place already, his promise to James be damned.

He can feel sweat pooling at the back of his neck, and his collar seems too tight for comfort. And then there is the godforsaken mask that is covering half of his face and painfully pressing into the bridge of his nose; it is a nuisance, but at least it somewhat hides his pained expression from James and the rest of their little group, who are at this moment laughing and chatting animatedly about some play currently running at the Lyceum.

James is standing closer to the women than would normally be considered polite, but everyone in this place seems to have abandoned formalities to a certain degree. This must be the appeal of masquerades, Francis thinks. He has, as James had promised, not encountered anyone he knows yet - or rather he might have, and simply not known. People are not addressing each other by their names, either. It is not surprising that people might drop the stuffy etiquette as soon as their social standing does not depend on it.

He wonders if he would recognize James, had they not arrived together. It is hard to imagine otherwise. He is as cheerful as ever in the company of people, his smile infectious. He’s neither loud nor showy, yet people flock to him like moths drawn to a flame. And between them is Francis, holding on to him more like a drowning man to a plank.

James suddenly turns to him, catching him off guard and pulling him out of his gloomy thoughts. „Don’t you think her costume is delightful? I’ve never seen anything like it!”

He gestures to the blonde woman standing next to Francis, who is bowing her head down and blushing, but clearly enjoys being the centre of attention. Her hair is adorned with a rather enormous contraption in the shape of a bat, complementing her voluminous black dress. Francis thinks it is bordering on ridiculous, but he gives a nod and a small smile.

„You certainly stand out from the crowd, miss.”

At least it is not a lie.

James continues to compliment her, and Francis realizes belatedly that he was probably trying to draw him into the conversation or worse, direct some of the lady’s attention to him. As if she could pay him any mind, in James’ presence.

He tugs on his vest, which feels too small and too colourful, and is once more overcome by the urge to take off the damned mask. To hide his face feels wrong, almost like a betrayal to everyone present, as if he is hiding the fact that he does not belong with them. His crooked teeth might give him away at any second and surely this flimsy piece of paper maché on his face is doing nothing to cover his pockmarked jaw.

One would think that a masked ball would be the perfect place for people like him, who so desperately try to hide themselves away from the world; instead it is a place where people more fortunate than him bask in their confidence, knowing the masks are merely adding extravagance to their beautiful appearance underneath.

He downs the rest of his whiskey and wonders when exactly he has become so bitter.

The woman with the bat on her head is still eyeing him curiously through her lace mask, as if to prove him right, and suddenly she is leaning closer to him. He is hit by a wave of her perfume. Lilies of the valley, strong, but not wholly unpleasant.

„And what are you supposed to be, then?”, she asks almost conspiratorially.

„I’m afraid I haven’t put as much thought into my costume as seems to be required. Tonight, I am merely a gentleman with a poor eye for colours.”

This, inexplicably, draws a laugh from her, and she moves even closer to him. 

„I think you look quite dashing.”

He doesn’t know what to reply, almost laughs in response. She looks bemused, but there’s no mockery in her voice. When it becomes apparent that he won’t provide an answer, she lightly touches his elbow and leans in until he can feel her breath tickling his ear.

„Maybe we should speak somewhere more private.”

The flowery scent is now almost overpowering. The music is still droning on, and he must have had one too many, because he manages a hoarse „Yes.”

Her forwardness is surprising, but James had warned him that this wouldn’t be like any party he had ever attended. His friend is watching him out of the corner of his eye, undoubtedly amused. Had he planned this all along? Francis’ head is swimming and he can’t decide if, in case he had, he should be cross with him or not.

This is not the right time to indulge this question, since the lady is gently guiding him away now. Dazedly, he realizes that he doesn’t even know her name, nor is he likely to find out. Are they to make it all the way across the city to his rooms and into his bed without taking off their masks? The thought is almost comical.

But she is not steering them toward the entrance hall, instead guiding him through some rooms he had not seen yet and which seem to be less occupied by the guests. He isn’t looking forward to what will most likely be a quick fumble in a deserted corridor, he has had enough of those and there are memories attached to them that he does not want to face tonight.

The music seems farther away now, no longer muddling his thoughts, and it is dawning on him that he may have made a mistake. His hand lies in hers, urging him on.

He stops abruptly, almost tripping her, and she turns to face him. The question goes unspoken, and it is his turn to supply an explanation, but none is forthcoming. He does not want to offend her, and he is ready to take the blame, but not to face her disappointment. He wishes she knew that he is doing her a favour. No, better she knew nothing about him at all.

Her bright blue eyes are fixed on him, her expression growing wary. He must look ridiculous, a grown man rendered immobile by the thought of a quick tumble with a beautiful stranger.

But it is not the indignity that is keeping him from moving forward, and god knows it isn’t her looks either. He is not a blushing virgin, but he is drunk, and lonely, and knows that her company can’t change that.

„Are you feeling well?” 

Her tone is more concerned than accusing.

„I’m afraid I will have to go back now.” 

Her face falls, but she gently lays her other hand over his. She wants to speak, but he shakes his head. „I am sorry. Truly.”

It is all he manages to say before he breaks away, turns, and makes his way out to where they came from. She does not follow him, and he does not dare look back.

He manages to take two wrong turns on his way back, but eventually makes it to the main hall again. It is an impressively large house, and the host does not seem to mind his guests wandering about; another two couples had been making their way past him, clearly looking for a quiet spot. He is beginning to think that even for a masquerade ball, this is quite unusual.

The main hall is still full of people who seem to be having a splendid time. Francis tries to spot James and his entourage, but he has no luck finding him. James had insisted on wearing a ridiculously large hat with an oversized red plume to go with his ruffled shirt and rogue’s mask, which had made him stand out in the crowd, but now he’s nowhere to be seen. Maybe he has taken it off in the oppressive heat of the room, or maybe he has himself gone off with a paramour in search of some privacy. The thought does not scandalize him, but it leaves a bitter aftertaste that he can’t quite place. He reminds himself that his friend must think him well occupied and provided for, and it is entirely his own fault that he isn’t.

Another drink is long overdue.

As it turns out, there is something worse than attending a party with his best friend that he had no intention of enjoying in the first place: it is attending said party alone.

Drifting aimlessly around the hall, Francis tries to find a conversation to partake in, just for the sake of it. He doesn’t feel like he has anything to contribute, but joining another circle must be better than exposing himself as the miserable old outcast he is.

His thoughts keep returning to her, the way she had made her advances to confidently. To her bright eyes, her delicate hands. Hands that could have held him close, that could have done all kinds of things – he should have gone with her, let her distract him from his bitter thoughts if only for a brief moment.

Maybe he can still find her.

He takes the same route as they had, venturing into the back of the house. Sobriety sets in quickly when he realizes that, when she had been with him, he had not paid any attention to his surroundings.

The dark wood panelling on the walls is identical in almost every room and the furniture all looks the same to him. From above a dresser, an oil portrait of a French monarch is sternly looking down on him. After venturing into yet another room that he doesn’t remember seeing, he finally has to admit to himself that he’s well and truly lost.

It can’t be helped, he needs to go on, logic dictates that he must at some point reach a place that holds familiarity. Taking stock of his surroundings, he suddenly perceives faint sounds nearby and starts out in their direction.

They lead him to another corridor, in which all doors but one are closed. He can hear rustling and whispering, and suddenly recognizes the sound of low moaning.

So this is where the couples have ended up. Where he could have ended up tonight.

He knows that he shouldn’t linger, almost feels ashamed of having stumbled upon this, even though there’s no way that the people in the room could know he’s there. Foolish of them to leave the door open, giving anyone the opportunity to listen in.

But then again, maybe they want it that way. The thought is more than sinful, yet it sends a curious shiver down his spine. Finally, he wills his body to move.

But instead of turning away, he takes another couple of steps towards the room. He can hear skirts rustling, and there is a high whimpering sound.

He shouldn’t still be here. This world must remain closed off to him.

Suddenly, there are footsteps and before Francis can think of what to do, the door opens fully and out comes a couple he recognizes from earlier in the evening. They had been standing in the same circle as he and James, punch glasses in hand, arms interlocked.

The lad’s lilac vest matches her shimmering dress in colour, their faces are flushed, and both are now looking noticeably more dishevelled than when he last saw them. They almost fall over him on their way out, apologizing hastily and then dissolving into giggles.

His heart is racing and he’s desperately trying to come up with an excuse for his presence, but they don’t seem to pay him that any mind, as if there was nothing remarkable at all about him standing there, looking like a fish out of water.

The boy is taking her hand and starts leading her away down the hallway, but she breaks free and turns toward Francis, laying a hand on his shoulder. The gesture is unexpected, and he tenses up again, but she simply smiles at him, looking like she knows something he does not.

„Go on, don’t be afraid.”

And then she’s gone, hurrying after her lover in a flash of mauve, leaving Francis alone with his thoughts.

What kind of company has James brought him into?

The sounds from the room haven’t stopped, which means that there’s is something going on in there that is wholly alien to him.

Francis is, by nature, a private man. He doesn’t like to share his belongings, his rooms, has learnt to refrain from sharing his thoughts and beliefs too, unless absolutely necessary or among his closest friends. How someone could openly exhibit their intimacies, to put on display something like this – it is incomprehensible to him.

But instead of disgust or anger, all he feels is a strange longing that is guiding him towards the room, as if he was pulled by some invisible strings.

He doesn’t consider himself fearful, yet the moment he steps through the door frame is one of the most terrifying of his entire life. Everything around him has an unreal quality to it, and he thinks he might turn into dust the moment he crosses the threshold, stopped from entering this realm that he does not belong in.

But it is not a strange fairy kingdom he has entered; it is simply a room. An elegantly furnished guest room it seems, velvet curtains drawn over the windows, a thick red carpet beneath his feet. And in the middle of it, right in front of him, stands an enormous four-poster bed, the canopy open, revealing a mass of plush pillow and between them –

His breath stops for a second and he is unable to take another step.

She looks up at him, her blue eyes as clear and piercing as before. She is lying on her back, has abandoned her headdress but not her lace mask, the strings down the front of her black dress are undone. One of her hands is holding her skirts gathered up, the other is caressing the hair on her lover’s head which lies between her thighs. It is another woman wearing a green dress, who has her gloved hands wrapped around her upper legs, her face pressed between them, not visible, but moving in an unmistakeable way.

Francis feels like any second now, he must be waking up from whatever nightmare this is. He’s completely and utterly lost.

Her gaze is still locked with his and she starts smiling at him almost lazily, before another moan escapes her and she throws her head back, exposing her lovely white neck.

He’s not meant to see this, but they are not stopping him. They aren’t stopping at all, clearly enjoying themselves, without a care in the world. It is not a show they are putting on for him, and yet he is allowed to be their audience, to take it all in. It is almost dizzying. He still can’t look away.

He wonders dimly what might have happened if he hadn’t turned his back on her, but strangely, there is no regret in the thought. She seems happy, relaxed; they fit together in a way that is new to him, unexpected yet perfect.

His body’s reaction to seeing them like this feels wrong, but it is undeniable. His face is hot under the mask, his breathing anything but steady. He closes his eyes for a moment and when he opens them again, she is beckoning him, hand outstretched. He is still standing just inside the room, hasn’t moved since he discovered them. Now he walks towards the bed, slowly, and finally sits down on the edge of it. They are so close now, lilies of the valley blooming around him once again.

He tears his eyes away when he notices a movement on the other side of the room, he turns his head and his heart almost stops.

Opposite the foot of the bed there is a chaise longue, and sitting on it is none other than James Clark Ross, shirt partly unbuttoned, his plumed hat lying next to him on the arm rest.

His legs are spread and there’s a woman kneeling between them, her back turned towards Francis, her silky brown hair falling down to her neck, over the top of her bright blue dress, swaying with the movement of her head. There is no question to what she’s doing.

It is a display so shameless, Francis feels like he is going to keel over any second.

James’ eyes are fixed on him, his lips slightly parted, his arousal almost tangible. It is unspeakable and depraved. It sends a bolt of heat into Francis’ groin and he is reeling, he is feels sick, he feels –

He feels more aroused then he ever has in his life, and more ashamed, too.

This can’t be happening, not tonight, not ever. He needs to leave, this room, this house and preferably this entire damned country. He doesn’t move.

There’s cold sweat running down his back but he feels hot all over, his hands are clammy, and he instinctively buries them into the bed covers, fingers curling tightly.

James is still staring at him, but there is no expression on his face that Francis could read, no shock, no anger, no amusement. He had thought his friend capable of many things, but never something like this. Then again, he has had no reason to until today.

Of course, he’s heard other men in the navy boast with their exploits, most of them wilder than his imagination, but likely to be exaggerated. But never James, thoughtful and quiet James.

And yet this is real.

Francis can feel the women shift beside him, their movements becoming more erratic, but he is still looking at James.

His best friend, sitting in the same room as him, his pants unbuttoned, his cock down some eager woman’s throat, his hands in her hair, but his eyes fixed on Francis, and Francis alone. God help him.

Francis’ own prick is straining against his trousers and it is taking every ounce of self-control not to find relief with his hands. Would it be a transgression? But then, if it were, what would be all of this?

It is something they will never speak of, something that will be forgotten once this night is over. But how Francis could ever rid himself of the picture that is laid out in front of him, he truly does not know. Nor how he can ever look his friend in the eyes again.

For now, he can be relieved that no one has cast him out of the room, that no one seems to mind his presence or notice his discomfort.

Although James must feel it, surely. He knows Francis well enough to know that he has never in his life found himself in a situation like this. Maybe he is surprised that Francis hasn’t fled the room, maybe it is curiosity that stills him. A morbid curiosity it would be.

In any case, Francis’ presence doesn’t seem to put a damper on his enthusiasm. How can he be so at ease, when Francis feels like the earth should open up underneath him and swallow him down into the deepest pits of hell?

It’s not the sight alone, the fact that he is watching his friend enjoy the company of a woman, it is his own reaction that sickens him, the way his trousers feel uncomfortably tight. There’s a sinking feeling in his stomach that he recognizes from all the times that Sophia had led him to her rooms, when her aunt and uncle had been out of the house, but it is also something else entirely, something even more exhilarating.

It is a tingling in the tips of his fingers and at the back of his neck, the feeling of a boulder lodged in his throat.

James can’t be faulted for doing this, but Francis must be punished for this sin that he is committing by letting his body betray him and his friend in this way.

Surely it must be the women in the room, their moaning growing louder and ecstatic, that make him feel like this - but he is not looking at them now, is not watching the brunette between James’ legs either, instead he is looking at his friends’ flushed cheeks, the way he briefly licks his lips, at his neck, his chest rising and falling with every breath, and lower still, his mind filling in what he can’t see, oh god –

He feels his fingers dig into his knee painfully, there’s a noise escaping him that sounds more pained than aroused.

He turns his head toward the women beside him again, in desperation, and the sight that is offered to him sends his head spinning.

They are entangled completely, the one in the green dress on top of his former suitor, one of her arms disappearing underneath the black skirts and moving, moving, moving still. Neither of them pays him any mind now, too caught up in their own ecstasy.

It seems clear that the blonde is not going to last much longer, Francis has spent enough time with Sophia to know that much. It is the way she is arching her back, driving herself down on the other one’s fingers, the way her moans get higher and higher in pitch until she finally bites down on her lovers neck in a silent scream and shudders, again, and again, until her movements finally slow down.

They are breathing heavily, still holding each other tightly, foreheads now resting against each other. They are smiling, too, kissing each other, giggling.

Somehow this moment is more intimate than anything that came before it, and Francis tries to avert his eyes, stares at the patch of blanket in front of him to avoid the other, more daunting sight across the room.

A few moments later there is more movement beside him, a rustle of green skirts leaving the bed, and then the edge of the mattress dips as someone else moves up from behind him. She seats herself next to him, gestures towards the front of her dress and starts gathering up strands of blonde hair that have come loose from where they were pinned to her head. It takes him a second before he understands her silent request and starts pulling the black strings taut again, finally wrapping them up in a clumsy bow just above her bosom.

When he’s done, he risks a glance at her face and is rewarded by a bright smile. She brings a hand up to his face and gently cups his chin.

„Maybe another time.”

This time she doesn’t wait for a reply and instead stands up to join her lover, who is waiting for her in the door. Together they exit, and to Francis’ endless horror push the door shut behind them.

It feels intentional, like a command.

Stay.

He knows that he could get up, go to the door and open it again, he could leave just as well as them - but he mustn't. Whatever it is that has stirred inside of him, he needs to face it tonight or there will never be another chance. He knows what his future will bring – another trip into endless ice, one that he might just as well not return from. He was not meant to be with Sophia, and even though he still wants her, she seems immeasurably far away now. There is just this room, and beyond that, either knowing himself truly, or forever running away.

He shifts and finally looks up at James again, his arousal now dimmed by pure dread.

Nothing about the scene has changed, except James seems to be moving his hips now, and Francis can hear the noises drifting over from the two of them, wet sucking sounds and a low appreciative hum that sounds awfully familiar, but has never sent such a burning sensation down Francis’ his chest before.

The seconds seem to be stretching endlessly and just when Francis feels like he’s going to lose his mind completely, James grips the woman's hair and gently pulls her back, leaning down to whisper something in her ear. It is so faint that Francis can’t make it out. Whatever he has said makes her turn her head slightly and look at him from the corner of her eye. She is wearing a simple, silky blue mask matching her dress, beneath it her lips look plush and unnaturally wet.

Another word from James and she smiles, her gaze growing intense, until she pulls his neck down further and whispers a reply, her other hand working between his legs.

What Francis has known as the feeling of shame doesn’t compare to what he is feeling now. They must be talking about him, there is no other explanation. Mockery, no doubt, at his expense.

He feels sick again, but this time it’s not a strange new sensation, it is one he knows all too well. He doesn’t belong here after all. He has made a grave error of judgement, his thoughts muddled by lack of sleep and alcohol. To go where he was not supposed to, to throw himself into this absurd scene without considering the consequences, it is just another in a long list of mistakes that will haunt him for the rest of his days.

They are standing up now, James’ trousers buttoned up neatly again, he has a hand around her cinched waist and is still talking to her in a low murmur. Leaving, of course they are. Leaving Francis alone once again, feeling worse than he had before this whole spectacle began.

But they are not passing him by, instead walking down the room towards the other side of the bed. Francis dimly registers now that she is rather tall, and her shoulders broader than they had seemed before. In fact, now that they are in step beside each other, he can see that she is taller than James by a few inches.

Francis doesn’t recognize her from ball, he is sure he would have noticed her, but then again, he had been mostly caught up in his thoughts. He barely has time to consider what they are going to do now before they reach the bed and she all but crawls up on it, a smile playing around her lips as she regards Francis. James comes up behind her and  buries his face in her neck.

He must be biting down now because there is a sound coming from her mouth and Francis is taken aback by how deep it is, a voice that doesn’t seem to belong to her, and yet there it is again.

And it is not a woman’s voice at all, he realizes. The thin lips, the broad jaw – he sees them now and suddenly, he knows. This is all make-believe, and James has to know too, there is no way he could not. Which means that he willingly let himself be pleasured by –

By this man that he is now still holding, caressing, drawing closer to him.

Francis had thought he knew next to everything about his friend, but tonight seems to be determined to prove him wrong, and wrong again.

Among other things, about his own feelings.

He should be feeling nothing but disgust, instead there’s surprise and yes, hurt, but it seems to be stemming from the lack of trust his friend has had in him. A lack of trust, a lack of courage. Or a justified fear? Fear for his life, no doubt, James knows the law as well as him. Courage doesn’t mean taking unnecessary risks. And James does enjoy the company of women, too, of that at least Francis is quite sure. He does not know the extent of this secret, doesn’t know if it feels as substantial to James as it does to him.

And Francis – how can he judge him? The sight of them together makes him shiver involuntarily. It is finally time to admit to himself what he has known since he had first seen James in this room. He is drawn to him, in a way that he hasn’t experienced before.

He’s torn from his racing thoughts by James’ voice, clearly addressing him.

„You don’t mind, do you?”

It’s conspiratorial, it is taunting. But, Francis realizes, it is also his last chance to change his mind. His friend is offering him a way out. No further questions asked. No more secrets revealed.

Francis swallows thickly and shakes his head.

They seem satisfied with his answer, almost relieved, and there’s a weight lifted from Francis’ shoulders, too. No, he doesn’t mind. He’s terrified, he’s overwhelmed, he doesn’t know what is going to happen. But he has thrown himself into the deep end and he either needs to learn how to swim or drown miserably.

James apparently doesn’t want to waste any time, since his hands are already moving restlessly over the front of the dress, drawing low moans from the man that go straight to Francis’ cock.

His legs are almost starting to cramp up now, so he moves further onto the bed, letting his back rest against the enormous mountain of pillows. This way he is on display too, committing to be a part of this.

He catches James looking at him, his eyes moving down his body to the bulge in his trousers, but if he has any thoughts on that, he keeps them to himself.

One hand disappears underneath the skirt, running up and down the leg, teasing. The other one comes up around the man’s neck, holding it without applying pressure.

„What do you need?”

Ah – ahh – f-fuck. You damn well know.”

And Francis knows, too, he can feel it, he needs the same. He starts palming himself now, the friction hardly enough to satisfy but almost overwhelming at the same time.

„Just tell me what I want to hear.”

Please.

Finally, James dips his hand lower, reaching his mark judging from the noises that follow. This is obviously not the first time they are doing this, there seems to exist an unspoken agreement between them. James is taking the lead, clearly relishing being in control, while his lover is submitting himself freely.

They get a rhythm going and Francis eyes are fixed to where he can see James’ hand moving underneath the skirts.

He finally unbuttons his own pants and slides a hand down his underpants, flinching at the contact. He has to remind himself that he’s allowed to do this, that they won’t stop him. He tentatively grabs his cock and groans, which directs their attention towards him. They are both smiling appreciatively, which gives him enough courage to move his hand some more. God, it feels so good.

„Do you want to see?”

James voice is low and hoarse, and Francis wants to commit it to his memory forever.
He nods.

„Go on, show him.”

The skirts start slowly lifting up, revealing first a pair of fine white stockings on muscular thighs. Going higher still, Francis can see that their lacy edges are held up by a garter which is wrapped around a pair of equally fine undergarments. Inside them, James’ hand is rapidly moving up and down a slick cock, smearing pre-come all over the patch of skin just below the navel.

Francis has never seen anything as sinful as this in his life. If he starts moving his hand now, he’s done for.

He can’t help but imagine James’ slender fingers wrapped around himself like that. The feeling of shame is still burning deep in his stomach, but he’s letting it mingle with the arousal, creating something new and thrilling.

His friend has his face buried in a mass of brown curls, panting loudly, and Francis wonders dimly if someone is going to take care of him, too. The friction alone can’t be enough to satisfy.

The other man’s noises have been reduced to a steady stream of ah- god - fuck accompanying the movements, until he turns his head back and drawls, „Fuck me, James. God, fuck me please.

The voice seems familiar, but Francis can’t place it, doesn’t want to dwell on the thought that this might be someone he knows, someone else he’s going to come face to face with at any other point in his life.

James moans in response and steadies himself, lets go of the cock and instead unbuttons his pants, lifting his ass briefly and shoving them down to his thighs in one swift motion.

Francis’ heart is hammering in his chest as he tries to imagine what is about to happen. Could they really – how are they going to – how does he know his name?

He doesn’t have long to think about it, because James is already pushing the other man forward roughly until he’s bent over right between Francis’ legs, face almost completely buried in the folds of the blanket. The skirts get thrown up over his back and the knickers pushed down, a sliver of skin now visible below the waist.

James is grinding his hips against the bare ass, grabbing it and pulling it upwards. Francis is so focused on his friend that he barely registers the small yelp beneath him. When he looks down, he sees that the silky bow nestled on the back of the man’s head has come undone and the blue mask has shifted down, revealing the face underneath.

He’s looking at none other than James Fitzjames, who staring up at him, eyes wide in shock.

God damn it all to hell.

Not only has he stumbled upon his friend amusing himself with a man, of course it had to be the most stuck up, pompous prick in the entire Royal Navy. Who apparently likes to wear dresses and take it up the arse.

And now this man bent over in front of him, flushed, looking up at him pleadingly. All of his dirty secrets exposed. How’s that for one of his thrilling dinnertime stories.

Nevertheless, Francis has to admit that he makes for an unexpectedly gorgeous sight. To his own surprise, he’s still fully hard, and he starts slowly rubbing his prick, all the while looking straight at Fitzjames.

This seems to be enough of a sign for the latter to quickly adjust the mask again, fastening the strings at the back of his hair and laying his head to the side, cheek pressed into the duvet.

James evidently hasn’t taken any notice of what has happened, he’s still running his hands over Fitzjames’ ass and lower, between his legs, until Fitzjames’ breath hitches.

Francis can’t see what he’s doing, until James casually puts aside a small object and Francis’ eyes widen in shock. It’s a small, polished wooden staff glistening with oil, and it must have been - good god, he hadn’t known that something like this existed.

He’s not given any chance to dwell on the implications, since James is already moving forward, one hand now on his own cock, guiding it up until he must be pushing inside Fitzjames slowly, carefully.

The noises coming from Fitzjames’ mouth are absolutely unholy, he’s whimpering, almost sobbing and James is quite a sight too, eyes screwed shut, panting harshly. If Francis wasn’t sitting down, he’s sure his legs would give out from under him. He’s hardly spent any time in his life thinking about anything like this, certainly not imagining how it must feel, but he’s thinking about it now. Closing his eyes, he can see himself in James’ position –

God forgive me.

He opens his eyes again, struggling to get enough air into his lungs.

James is visibly having a hard time restraining himself, resisting the urge to push in all at once - much to the despair of Fitzjames’ who’s begging him to do just that, eyes screwed shut, hands gripping the blanket so tightly his knuckles stand out white.

Francis doesn’t know how he can bear it, can’t imagine what it must feel like to be filled up like this. Surely it must hurt in some way, but all that’s coming from Fitzjames are sounds of pure rapture, unrestrained and filthy beyond compare.

It is clear now that none of them are going to last very long like this, James seemingly determined to finally take what he needs. He’s looking at Francis again, drinking up the sight of him stroking his cock in the same rhythm as he has taken up to fuck Fitzjames, and together they start working their way towards release.

Francis jolts when a hand grabs his leg and before he understands what is happening, Fitzjames’ hand is covering his own, moving with him. He makes no attempt to stop him, too caught up in the moment to think about what he’s submitting himself to. Fitzjames however seems to take it as an invitation to lower his face into his groin and promptly run his tongue along the underside of his prick. Francis swears and bucks up his hips, which only pushes him deeper into Fitzjames mouth, who gags, and lifts his head only to sink down again, lips wrapped tightly around him.

„Oh, sweet Jesus.”

That’s James’ voice, low and rough, and the moment Francis looks up at him he can feel himself coming down Fitzjames’ throat, hard. He groans and shudders, and James must have realized what has happened because the next moment his hips drive up sharply one last time and he keels over, forehead pressed into the back of Fitzjames’ dress.

They all stay like that for a few seconds until Fitzjames releases Francis’ cock with an indecent wet sound, licking the come from the tip as he does so. Some of it runs down chin, and he grins as he wipes it away with the back of his hand and swallows the rest straight down.

Francis closes his eyes and lets out a breath he hadn’t noticed he was holding. He sinks back into the pillows, his body suddenly feeling incredibly heavy. James pulls out too, judging from the sounds, and lets out a quiet, exhausted laugh.

The air in the room is thick and stuffy, but the silence that falls over them is not uncomfortable. They all need a few moments to gather themselves, Francis most of all. A great stillness has descended on him, which is only broken when he moves to stuff his softening prick back into his underpants, feeling more than a little self-conscious. His hair is sticking to his skull, slick with sweat, and he’s uncomfortably hot all over.

Meanwhile, Fitzjames has sat up, now kneeling again, resting on the back on his heels. Francis notices that he’s slipped a hand under his skirts and seems to be stroking himself.

Oh.

He had been so caught up in his own jumble of emotions that he hadn’t paid any attention to the fact that he hadn’t – or maybe he had just assumed –

Following his instinct and ignoring the burning thoughts in the back of his head, he pushes himself off the pillows and closes the distance between them. For the first time tonight, Fitzjames seems startled. Francis avoids looking into his eyes as he slowly sets a hand down on the other man’s knee, pushing upward, inward, feeling along the silky fabric of the tights. Fitzjames has gone still all over, as if he’s holding his breath.

Francis only stops when he reaches the lace, experimentally runs a finger along the first bit of bare skin above it, which is met by a shudder.

James, now aware that something is happening without him, comes up behind them, resting his head on Fitzjames’ shoulder.

Francis’ fingers venture higher still, until he can feel the undergarments. He dips his fingers below the waistband, relishing the sharp breath this rewards him. As his hands close around Fitzjames his cock he looks up at James and wonders dimly if his friend had known what he was getting himself into when he had invited Francis to come along to this place.

Fitzjames whimpers, and Francis starts moving his hand slowly, only managing a few strokes until he hears a high whining sound and he can feel the come running down his fingers.

„Jesus Christ, you’re going to be the death of me.”

Francis doesn’t know who James is talking to, but it doesn’t matter. He takes his hand out from underneath the dress and wipes it on the blanket.

It is his turn to laugh now, a feeling of inexplicable giddiness taking hold of him at the thought of what he has just done. What they have done.

Maybe tomorrow he’s going to wake up and realise that he’s damned for all eternity, that he can never look himself in the eyes again. But tomorrow seems very far away now.

Fitzjames is running a hand through his own hair, arranging it so if falls down his shoulders in neat curls again, slipping from the bed and patting down his dress.

James is wiping some sweat from his forehead and grins, a twinkle in his eye that Francis knows all too well. He doesn’t need to say it, Francis knows him well enough to know what he’s thinking.

I told you you’d enjoy yourself.