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The Edge of Discovery

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‘For Christ’s sake, Marsh! I cannot speak with you in this mood. Get down here,’ I snapped, clattering down the iron steps and throwing open the heavy door of the main laboratory.

I knew full well that, at three o’clock in the morning, the place would be deserted, a warm, quiet space in the bowels of the still-busy Office. Even in the midst of a crisis, the scientists had to sleep if their work was not to suffer. The same might be said of Wardens, of course, but we had lately been given no such time for respite, and it appeared that the relentless parade of horrors was finally breaking Marsh down. I had never seen him so distracted and irascible, and his ill-temper during our latest interminable patrol of a dying city had only inflamed my own ghastly mood. We were both badly in need of a moment’s quiet or distraction.

Marsh followed me through the door of the laboratory and stood, arms folded in clear petulance, staring around the deserted space. The burners were all extinguished, the workbenches tidy, and only the dying flickers from the four enormous fireplaces lit the tiled room. There was only just enough light to throw creeping shadows on the walls as the dozens of tarantulas crawled slowly in their glass cages.

‘What are we doing here, Lewis?’ Marsh demanded, scowling. ‘We ought to be going back out, we left work unfinished –’

‘Oh, do be quiet, Marsh,’ I ordered, making use of his surprise to close the door and turn the key in the iron lock without him noticing the small movement.

‘I beg your pardon?’ Marsh said stiffly.

‘You heard me perfectly, sir,’ I said, advancing on him as threateningly as I could manage. Being a foot shorter than my young friend was a disadvantage that no amount of aristocratic arrogance could entirely remedy. ‘You have been nightmarish company all day, and I am well aware that my own disposition is far from clement. We need a moment before we return to the fray, else we are as likely to kill each other as to do any sort of good.’

‘You may speak for yourself, sir,’ Marsh shot back, clenching his fists at his sides and squaring up to me. ‘But you will kindly refrain from making impolitic judgements on my mental state.’

I closed the final gap between us, pressing into Marsh’s space with bullish intensity. ‘Admit it, sir – you are cracking most severely under the strain of our task.’

‘Indeed I am not, sir!’ Marsh growled, staring down at me with strain and fury crackling in his gaze. ‘Cracking under the strain is rather more your style, is it not?’

At that jibe I narrowed my eyes and glared up at him, pressed directly against his body, hands balled into fists at my sides. I was certain that something had to break – the tension between us had finally reached a critical point, and I was trying to bring about relief, in one form or another.

Marsh simply loomed over me and glowered, too controlled to make a move. It fell to me to make it instead. I stood up high on my toes, bared my teeth savagely, then kissed him hard on the mouth.

Marsh jerked back from the wild kiss. His fist came up and struck me hard in the face.

The smack of his knuckles against my sharp cheekbone was like a sudden dousing in boiling oil. Heat flushed through to my very bones, and before I had even acknowledged the sting of pain I had brought my own fists to bear.

I struck him on the jaw with all my strength, and was rewarded with a momentary gasp of surprise before he laughed loudly at my puny strike.

I cursed aloud, damning my physical shortcomings, and struck him again, this time in the gut.

That proved rather more effective; Marsh doubled over, gasping for air, and I took the chance to hit him in the ribs whilst he was vulnerable. It was terrifically ungentlemanly, but there was nothing gentlemanly about the entire situation. We simply needed a savage kind of release, and violence or debauchery would both answer our requirements.

Marsh did not stay vulnerable for long, straightening up with a wordless growl of rage and punching me hard; one-two to my face and ribs. I felt my cheek split, hot blood beginning to flow even as pain exploded in my side.

‘Damn you!’ I cursed, apoplectic with pain and long-held frustration, and threw myself bodily at the bigger man.

Marsh went down hard, striking his back against the edge of a bench with a yell, and then we were rolling on the tiled floor, our fists striking at whatever part of the other presented itself as a convenient target.

I could not honestly say who it was who began the resultant kiss, channelling violence into lust, but we were both bloody and breathless, already hurting from a dozen wild blows. Marsh’s mouth was hot as fire as he opened up, allowing me in at last. We wrestled for dominance, duelling tongues hard and unforgiving, plundering each other’s mouths and groaning at the iron taste of freshly spilt blood on bitten and broken lips. Fingers gouged at skin and hair, tore at jackets and neat shirts, leaving fabric rumpled and defaced.

I became aware that I was achingly aroused, straining inside my trousers, and Marsh was no less affected; I could feel his member pressing solidly against my thigh. I broke the kiss to laugh wildly in Marsh’s bleeding face.

‘Look at us, rutting on the floor. What if someone were to walk in here?’ I gasped out, seeking to wound and rile him still. ‘You’d be in gaol with your darling Wilde before the night was out, you disgraceful sodomite!’

Marsh’s face turned ugly at the stinging words and he struck me again, landing a solid blow to my temple which had me seeing stars.

I shook off the pain and lunged at him, sinking my teeth into his neck hard enough to draw blood.

Marsh cried out, but there was more in the shout than simple pain. His hips ground up against mine and I groaned in answer.

I pulled away from him and staggered, breathless, to my feet. ‘Get up,’ I panted. When Marsh failed to move, I leant down and grabbed him by the cravat, hauling him up. I could not properly move him myself, but the impetus was enough to get him to rise under his own power.

As soon as he was on his feet I crushed him against the nearest bench, my lips clamped tightly to his, my hands clutching his hips hard enough to bruise.

Marsh shoved his knee between my thighs and pushed against me, bringing delicious pressure to bear against my groin. I moaned into his mouth and ground my hips against him.

‘Oh, God!’ he groaned in answer, as I moved one of my hands to squeeze tightly at the bulge in his trousers.

Intention crystallised in my mind in an instant. I fumbled at Marsh’s trousers for a minute, unwilling to move far enough away from him to properly see what I was doing, before the buttons finally gave under my fingers.

Marsh swore into my mouth as his hardness sprang free of the constricting cloth and I wrapped my hand tightly around it, stroking roughly.

‘Turn around,’ I instructed him, squeezing once more and then releasing him. ‘If you wish to court disaster, far be it from me to constrain you. I mean to have you over this bench right now, interlopers be damned!’

To my surprise, Marsh groaned loudly and turned swiftly away, shoving his open trousers down around his knees. I caught a momentary glimpse of his blood-flushed shaft, standing proud and dripping amid a sea of dark curls, before he bent himself over the end of the bench and presented his backside for my use.

‘By god, you don’t care in the slightest if half of the Office staff walk in, do you?’ I said, wonderingly. The thought that Marsh was so desperately reckless fanned the flames of my own desire until it was all I could do not to sink into him at once. I stroked my hands firmly over the pale globes of his buttocks, pressing my fingernails in hard, leaving red crescents in his delicate skin.

Marsh only moaned at the rough treatment, the sound making my manhood strain painfully against my trousers. I almost tore away the buttons in my haste to free myself, growling low in my throat as the air reached my fever-hot skin.

I fumbled in the cupboard under the bench and unearthed a bottle of clear mineral oil, perfect for my purposes. I slicked two of my fingers and ran them teasingly down the cleft of Marsh’s backside, earning a high, desperate whine for my troubles. I buried one finger in his hot entrance and began working the taut flesh, talking to him all the while.

‘You know, there are at least a dozen Wardens upstairs. What if one of them decides that this is the moment to collect some fresh thread? Imagine how you would look, stretched over this bench, bared for all the world to see,’ I said, working in a second finger and drawing a gorgeous deep groan from Marsh’s bloodied lips. ‘In fact, I believe you would enjoy that, wouldn’t you? A dozen or so Wardens watching as I bugger you until you beg me to let you finish. Perhaps you’d like them to join in; take turns using you until you can hardly remember your name...’ At that, I crooked my fingers hard against the sweet spot inside him, and Marsh fairly howled with lust.

‘For God’s sake, Lewis, please!’ he begged. ‘Finish it before someone catches us!’

‘Very well,’ I agreed, withdrawing my fingers with a slick squelch. He was barely prepared, but it would be at least enough to prevent an injury, and neither one of us had sufficient patience for anything slower.

I drizzled warm oil over my dripping, swollen member, spread Marsh’s buttocks with my oily fingers and pushed into him in one hard slide.

Marsh howled out his pleasure, the sound echoing off the tiled walls, and I thanked God that the laboratory’s thick walls allowed almost no noise to escape.

‘Christ, Marsh, you’re just begging to be caught, aren’t you?’ I accused, drawing back slowly and pounding back in as far as I could go, groaning at the exquisite sensation. I set a hard pace, rough and, I was sure, almost certainly on the edge of pain for Marsh. He seemed to like it that way. ‘You’d love to be passed around Reading Gaol, wouldn’t you? Taking whatever the guards and the prisoners gave you, getting on your knees with a “yes, sir” and a “thank you, sir”.’

‘Yes, sir!’ Marsh gasped, knuckles white against the wooden bench, and I growled at his capitulation.

Pleasure built within me, the tightness of Marsh’s body drawing me inexorably toward the edge. At such a brutal pace we could not last long, and when I felt my climax stealing over my flesh I reached around and grasped Marsh’s straining member, working it hard and fast in time with the thrusts which slammed him against the bench again and again. No doubt his thighs would be purple with bruises before the day was out. In only a few moments of frantic stimulation, Marsh’s climax rushed through him. He cried out, drawing up tight around me, and the sudden squeeze dragged me after him.

‘Oh, Christ!’ I cried, digging my nails into his white hips as searing pleasure rolled over me. I collapsed over Marsh’s still-clothed back, resting my cheek against the soft wool of his jacket and breathing in swift, ragged pants until my equilibrium returned.

‘Lewis?’ Marsh’s voice brought me back to myself after a few moments of delicious drifting. ‘Lewis!’

‘Yes?’

Marsh tried to straighten up, signalling that I ought not to be collapsed on top of him with my trousers around my knees. ‘Get up, for God's sake! Someone might come in and see us.’

I huffed an unwilling sigh, but let him up, backing off and tucking myself away. I winced as the pain of Marsh’s blows suddenly made itself felt. My face was already swelling, and my ribs scarcely allowed me to breathe. I ought to have known better than to pick a fight with him, but there was no denying that the result had been spectacular.

Marsh was in a worse state than I was, less bruised, perhaps, but certainly more dishevelled. His release had splattered over the end of the bench and across the front of his torn shirt.

I pulled out my handkerchief and helped him clean up enough that the exact nature of our activities would not be discernible to our colleagues. There was nothing to be done about the torn clothing or the vivid, painful bruises, but I fancied that those would be less noticeable than they might once have been.

‘I suspect it ought to concern me that we can walk out of here bloody and ruined, and no one will pay us any mind,’ I commented, folding my handkerchief carefully and placing it back in my pocket.

‘Yes, it hardly speaks well of the situation, does it?’ Marsh agreed. I was pleased to note that his eyes had lost their manic gleam, and his posture was considerably more relaxed than it had been before.

I stood on my toes and kissed him again, slow and gentle, soothing over painful splits in his lip with my tongue.

Marsh sighed and held me to him, bending down into the kiss. We remained that way for a long moment, hands caressing away the bruises of our violent encounter, before Marsh glanced warily at the door again and broke the kiss.

‘Do you feel better?’ I asked. ‘You know, I hope, that I did not mean anything I said?’

‘Yes,’ Marsh answered both questions in one. ‘You knew what we needed, and I would have been too stubborn to see it, had you not riled me so. I hope I did not hurt you badly?’

I waved away his concern. Despite my weaker form, I was not so fragile that a few blows would finish me off. I only hoped that would remain the case; constant venturing was slowly but surely wearing me out.

‘I will live,’ I said. ‘I suppose I barely bruised you at all, did I?’

‘You hit harder than you think, Lewis. You must remember that I am well used to taking beatings,’ Marsh said, matter-of-factly. ‘But I must confess that I was surprised at you – I would have thought you far too careful to commit such acts where we might be discovered.’

‘The thrill added a certain je ne sais quoi for you, did it not?’ I said, with a sly smile.

‘Oh yes!’ Marsh confessed, blushing scarlet.

‘I shall remember that,’ I promised. ‘Are you ready to go out again, now?’

‘I suppose so,’ Marsh said, with a heavy, weary sigh. ‘Though it galls me that we can have no more than a stolen moment’s respite.’

‘I know. I only hope that will not be the case forever.’

We returned to the entrance, clothes as neat as we could make them, leaving no trace of our activities behind. Marsh pulled at the laboratory door and recoiled in surprise when it failed to open at his touch. He quickly noted the position of the key and laughed aloud.

‘You knew it was locked all along,’ he accused. ‘You only wished me to think there was a risk.’

‘Naturally,’ I replied with a rather bloody smile. ‘I am not adverse to a little risk, but having illegal relations where we were so likely to be interrupted without taking precautions would have been idiotic.’

Marsh laughed again and shook his head. ‘Well, I’ll be damned!’

‘Precisely, Marsh. I suspect we both will,’ I joked, and clapped him on the shoulder.

My young friend unlocked the door and we went out into the world again, ready to plunge back into the unending battle for London.