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“ ‘…Put out your hand, child. Do you see how you can cover the moon- even large as it is, this evening- with naught but your own palm? Or the City of the Valley? Put out your fingertips- hold them over the metropolis below us- and you can block out the lamp-light of whole neighborhoods. And yet you know, as I do, that there are a multitude of lives there, hidden from your view- under your palm people go on living and dreaming and working and dying,’ ” Thomas read, his eyes flicking down, across the very last page.

" ‘Such things do go on, even when you cannot see them- or when you are not able to, because you are too far away. That is the truth of perspective- both literal and metaphorical. It seems a little thing, one that you could obscure, if you so chose- and yet it is the stuff of the universe entire. The stars are not, in fact, without pity- they are just far away. To them we are but a remote, inconsequential thing- but to us, they are the sky.’ ”

Thomas took a long breath, and allowed the book to fall closed with an audible sound- and he looked around, to meet Jimmy’s eyes. 

"That’s it?" Jimmy asked, incredulously. "That’s the end?"

"That’s it," Thomas affirmed- and Jimmy made a face. "It doesn’t resolve anything," Jimmy informed Thomas, now- though Thomas thought that everything had been tied up, rather neatly, in the last few chapters.

Jimmy was smoking- with his right hand. Jimmy’s left hand lay upon the table, upturned, and held very still.

"Next time I’ll pick the book,” Jimmy said, pointedly.

"You picked this book,” Thomas said, blithely defending himself. It was true, after all- Jimmy was the one who took advantage of Lord Grantham’s seemingly inexhaustible library, while Thomas preferred to purchase his own books, not take them on loan like a schoolboy.

"Only because I thought the title was interesting," Jimmy said, in lofty tones. "It’s not fair if you gift a dull book with a good title. People are liable to be tricked."

Liable to be tricked, Thomas echoed internally, watching Jimmy’s mouth shape the words- and then he caught himself, and looked away. The hall was empty- the servants of the guests had all retired. Anna had left early, with a headache- and Edna, when Thomas had looked for her, was nowhere to be found. Mrs. Patmore was, for once, not up late in the kitchen, doing whatever excess preparations she liked to do- she had been taken ill, or something. Not severely ill, Dr. Clarkson has assured them. Thomas thought he would reserve judgement. Dr. Clarkson did not have, as they say, the cleanest record when it came to pronouncements about other people’s health. Mrs. Hughes had seemed distracted, when she had said good-evening to Thomas- but she had said good-evening. So. He and Jimmy were alone.

Now Jimmy frowned at Thomas, his brow suddenly- and ostentatiously- creased with worry. There was a  sort of…drama to Jimmy’s expressions, Thomas thought, that would mortify Jimmy if he knew of it. The blatant- and fascinating- play of the moods across his face-

"You’re not really put-out?" Jimmy asked. "About having to serve for me yesterday?"

"No," Thomas said. "Y’cant help it, can you? Though why Mr. Carson had to force me into it, instead of just having Mr. Molesley do it last evening, as well, I don’t understa-“

Jimmy burst out laughing, looking right at Thomas, with his eyes creased in merriment. When Jimmy smiled genuinely- which was not terribly often- Thomas always felt his own mouth pull up at the corners- as if Jimmy’s expression of happiness were enough to evoke happiness with Thomas himself. “You’re so unreasonable,” Jimmy said, now. “So unreasonable. It was the middle of dinner-“

Well,” Thomas said, dragging the word into many syllables- “If you hadn’t been so desperate to impress the girl-“

There. He could say it. And normally, too. It hurt- stupidly, when it was a wound not rightfully his- but Thomas could speak of it. Even- he could even speak of it jokingly.

But Jimmy scowled, unaware of Thomas’s mastery of lightness, and moved his left hand, grimacing as he did it. “You heard about that,” Jimmy muttered, casting his gaze downwards. “I just can’t abide Alfred trying to show off his superiormanhood all the time. He’s such a blunderer, you couldn’t even know- an’ me having to work with him, day in and day out-“

"I can only imagine your pain," Thomas agreed mock-seriously- and he thought suddenly- reflexively- of William Mason. Poor dead blunderer himself. Perhaps it was only the end of the novel making him feel maudlin, Thomas reasoned. Despite Jimmy’s dissatisfaction, Thomas had found the story quite pretty, after a fashion. And, of course, there was the ache of knowing that he would have to watch Jimmy’s little romance play out in full, cinematic, and painfully inescapable reality.

But you said you didn’t want her, Thomas thought. But you said-

But Jimmy said a lot of things- or else he never, really, said anything at all- not even now that there was a friendship between them- and Thomas had to admit that Jimmy seemed both changeable and curiously opaque- as if he were a house, with all the shutters firmly drawn. And no-one looking out from inside, Thomas mused, a bit cruelly. Or if anyone is looking out, you can’t see them. Just a glimpse of movement-

At any rate- if it wasn’t Ivy, it would be someone else. So what did it matter?

"This is miserable," Jimmy said, in a quieter voice, and Thomas was startled out of his own thoughts. He had enough time to wonder how long he had been silent- and then Jimmy spoke again, sounding frustrated. "I can’t do anything,” Jimmy said. “Can’t serve, can’t really play cards, can’t bother with the piano, and it hurts worse today than yesterday-“

Thomas pulled a cigarette from the pack that lay on the table between them- Thomas sat at one end of the table, and Jimmy at the corner adjacent- and he lit it for himself, and then turned his gaze to Jimmy’s left wrist. Jimmy stubbed out the end of his own cigarette in the ashtray, using his right hand only. Jimmy’s left hand looked a mite swollen- but perhaps it was only the wrist that had swelled, a touch- Thomas could not be sure.

"You must’ve had a time with that," Jimmy said- and he pointed to Thomas’s gloved hand.

"Feelin’ sympathetic?" Thomas asked archly- and Jimmy smirked. "I don’t know what came over me," Jimmy retorted.

"The scholars call it ‘empathy’, I think," Thomas said- and Jimmy laughed, and made to clap Thomas about the ears with his good hand- but Thomas dodged him, laughing. "Too slow," Thomas said, taking a drag off of his cigarette- but when his eyes found Jimmy’s face again, Jimmy’s countenance had darkened, and his eyes seemed- troubled. Troubled. It was echoed by the crease of Jimmy’s brow- and the catch in his voice, when he said, quietly: "Will you take a look at it for me? My wrist, I mean."

Thomas flushed at this invitation to lay hands upon the other man-  he flushed right to the tips of his ears, he could feel it- but he kept his expression neutral, and his voice flat. “You should have Dr. Clarkson examine it,” Thomas said- and Jimmy shook his head no, looking at the far wall. “I feel like an idiot,” Jimmy murmured, so quietly that it seemed he was speaking to himself- and then his eyes found Thomas’s again. “You were trained as a medic, weren’t you?” Jimmy asked- and the tiny note- of pleading- in Jimmy’s voice- knocked down all of Thomas’s poorly-wrought defenses.

"All right, fine, if it hurts so badly,” Thomas said, with more resignation in his voice than he properly felt- and he looked at Jimmy again, unable to keep the questioning look from his face. Touch you? Really? Isn’t it going to make you- frightfully angry, or- or uncomfortable, or something-

But Jimmy only lifted his left hand, gingerly, and laid it on the table much closer to Thomas, angling his knees towards Thomas’s chair.

"Move your fingers. All of them, and then one at a time," Thomas commanded- and he watched, as Jimmy complied, with a sigh that indicated discomfort.

For a moment Thomas only looked at Jimmy’s wrist- yes, it was definitely swollen- you could see the knob of Jimmy’s wrist-bone much more clearly above his right hand- and then, making his mind up to do it properly, Thomas handed Jimmy his half-smoked cigarette- which Jimmy accepted wordlessly- and put both his hands to the unmarred skin of Jimmy’s wrist, lifting it a few centimeters above the tabletop.

Hhnngh. That smarts,” Jimmy said, with a grimace- and Thomas paused, gauging Jimmy’s pain- and then continued on, lightly tracing with the fingertips the bones of Jimmy’s hand. Thomas could feel, through the thin skin of Jimmy’s wrist, Jimmy’s pulse hammering away.

"Did you like the opera?" Thomas asked, to take Jimmy’s mind off the discomfort, as he turned Jimmy’s wrist this way and that. Funny, how years had passed since Thomas had last tended to an injured soldier- and yet, when someone asked for his services, all of Thomas’s old tricks came back. Talk to them. Get them talking. Distract them from the pain of that blown-off leg or those spilled guts or that ugly burn or that missing eye- just speak, even if the sounds are meaningless. Conversation, soldier, is the only anesthetic currently at your disposal.

Except that Thomas hadn’t been a soldier. Not really. Though he sometimes thought that being a medic was the poorer choice. Oh, you’d live, probably, but-

"Nnngh." Jimmy groaned, snapping his teeth together at the end of the groan with an audible click. “Th-that really hurts,” Jimmy said- and Thomas saw that Jimmy’s eyes were watering. He eased the pressure on Jimmy’s wrist until it was virtually nonexistent. “I’m goin’ to try and turn it the other way,” Thomas warned Jimmy- and Jimmy pressed his lips together, into an unhappy line of pain, and nodded, once.

"The opera," Thomas prompted- and Jimmy nodded. "Ah- hmm- it were alright. That woman could carry a tune- all the way- ah- up Mount Everest, if she put a m-mind to it-“

"Right," Thomas said- and he set Jimmy’s hand down, carefully, on the table. "It isn’t broken. Rather bad sprain, I think."

Jimmy nodded. Pain had drawn the color from Jimmy’s lips- it must be quite bad, Thomas reasoned, for Jimmy to be so incapable of hiding his discomfort- and Jimmy’s face was white. Thomas watched as Jimmy drew an unsteady breath, not moving his hand. “Is there nothin’ to do for it?” Jimmy asked- his eyes found Thomas’s, and Thomas ignored his own stupidly skipping heart, and the tight feeling in his chest.

"Aspirin tablets and a binding," Thomas said briskly, retreating into a businesslike demeanor. "Both of which we have."

"You’ll bandage it for me?" Jimmy asked, looking quite immediately relieved- and Thomas, who had not planned on doing it, nodded, as if the issue had never been under question.

"Much obliged," Jimmy said- and he gave Thomas a smile that seemed sincere, if a bit shaky.

"Stay here, I’ll be right back," Thomas said- and he rose- leaving Jimmy alone, with only the finished book and the astray- and his own useless hand- for company.

Thomas rooted around in cupboards and closets, looking for the necessary supplies. It’s the only chance you’ll ever get to lay hands on him, a thought reminded Thomas- as if he were going to forget. Maintain some professionalism, don’t gawp at him like a lovestruck idiot, Thomas’s sense of pride counseled him. You shouldn’t be doing him any intimate favors. And what if he thinks you’re acting in some untoward way and he-

But no. He wouldn’t, Thomas told himself. It was Jimmy who had asked for his help. Jimmy who had become his friend, after everything. Jimmy was in pain, and Thomas was alleviating it. Simple.

Nothing is simple, the better angels of Thomas’s nature said- and Thomas, finding a length of bandage, was forced to agree with them.

When Thomas returned to the servant’s hall, Jimmy had the book open with his right hand, his eyes intent on the page. When Thomas made some sound, as he passed through the doorframe, Jimmy slammed the book shut- and sat up, as if he were embarrassed to be caught in the pondering of it. “S’good, isn’t it,” Thomas said, dryly.

"It’s a bit tenderhearted, for my taste," Jimmy answered, brushing hair out of his eyes with his uninjured hand. The silence of the room was so profound that Thomas could hear every inhale and every exhalation that Jimmy took- and he set down on the table a roll of bandage, three pins, and a pair of sewing scissors- not ideal for cutting bandages- but all that Thomas had been able to lay hands upon without going on a lengthy hunt.

Jimmy immediately picked up the scissors- he had, Thomas noticed, a penchant for always fiddling with anything placed within arm’s reach.

Star Brand shoes are better,” Jimmy said aloud, reading the script engraved upon the body of the scissors. “Star Brand- the society shoe.” Jimmy turned the scissors in the palm of his hand. “There’s a little engraving of a shoe on them,” Jimmy said, in a tone that could convey either pleasure or disgust. “Look. Everything’s a bloody advertisement, these days.”

"Probably came free with a pair of shoes," Thomas said- and he reclaimed his own seat. "Lay your arm out."

Jimmy nodded, and pulled his chair much closer, so that his knees were suddenly pressing against Thomas’s. Thomas took care to lean away from the bodily contact- but Jimmy did not seem fazed- and he lay his arm down again, and then frowned. “I can’t pull my sleeve up very far.”

"Take off your jacket, and roll your shirtsleeves up," Thomas commanded, trying to pretend that Jimmy was just any old soldier, come to him with a complaint, and not Jimmy, Jimmy-of-his-fantasies. He had seen Jimmy’s bare chest before. Don’t think about that, Thomas commanded himself. Don’t think about the shape of his arm or of any other bit of him.

"Is this going to hurt?" Jimmy asked- his eyes met and held Thomas’s, creating a shared gaze that went on a long time between them.

"Just a bit," Thomas said, calmly. "I have to apply some pressure, but not so much that you lose blood circulation in your hand.”

"I really appreciate this," Jimmy said, in an undertone. His jacket had come off, and Thomas could see the line of Jimmy’s shoulders under the crisp angles of his shirt. Jimmy’s collar had been loosened- his tie- partially undone- and Jimmy had, dutifully, rolled his left sleeve up to the elbow. Jimmy’s skin looked golden against the stark white fabric that he wore against and over it. "I’d feel like too much of a fool askin’ anyone else."

"Well, maybe you shouldn’t do foolish things, then,” Thomas said, with a superior air- and Jimmy snorted, blowing air through his nose. “Right. That’s rich, from you,” Jimmy said, sounding smug- and Thomas felt his mouth tug upwards at the corners, again- though Thomas loathed being teased- hated it, really, from anybody but Jimmy. “Hold still,” Thomas commanded- and he put his hands to the inner crease of Jimmy’s elbow. Jimmy’s skin was warm- here was his pulse, a bit quick- but that could be from pain- and here was the softness of his skin, which rubbed smoothly under Thomas’s fingertips. I could make you feel so good, Thomas thought, wistfully. But- what did it matter? A woman or two had believed they could do that for Thomas, probably, in his life- and Thomas hadn’t ever been temped to see if they could sway his away from his own preferences. Sometimes people just didn’t match up. Even if they should, Thomas thought, even if it would be wonderful. With a conscious effort Thomas kept himself from stroking his fingertips down Jimmy’s forearm.

Using the spool as- as, well, a spool- Thomas unwound the bandage, starting at the middle of Jimmy’s forearm- he intended to work his way down to the injured wrist, double bind it, and do another layer over everything, to keep the injured muscles from moving overly much. Jimmy held very still, staring, as Thomas wrapped his arm- and lifting his hand up, slightly, when Thomas indicated he should do so.

"I hate injuries," Jimmy muttered. As the pain increased, so too did the motions of Jimmy’s body. His foot was in-between both of Thomas’s shoes- and Jimmy inclined forward, so that his left knee pressed between Thomas’s knees. Thomas did not pull back- it was careful work- not difficult, but something that ought to be done properly- and Jimmy being closer only made it easier to do the job correctly.

"Anything that limits mobility, I hate that,” Jimmy went on. His knee jiggled between Thomas’s knees- and, when Thomas wound the bandage firmly around Jimmy’s wrist, Jimmy hissed, and bounced his foot more quickly. “Ah. Shite,” Jimmy said.

"Most people love injuries, you must be some sort of peculiarity,” Thomas said- and Jimmy’s pained expression turned into a smile. “That I am,” Jimmy agreed, with an expression of amusement of his face. “Much better than all those ordinary sods- ah- oh- Mr. Barrow- c-careful there-“

Thomas gave him an apologetic look. “Is that too tight? Hold up your hand. Let me see if your fingers get blood trapped in them.”

Jimmy held his hand up, rather close to Thomas’s face- and Thomas examined his fingers- but they stayed their customary color. Satisfied, Thomas assessed Jimmy’s relative pallor, and said, gently- “I’m going to do a few passes around the wrist- and then some between your thumb. Yes?”

"Yes, do whatever y’need to," Jimmy agreed- though his eyes flicked away, when Thomas restarted the bandaging. "Hhh, I really did it this time,” Jimmy said, from between his teeth, as Thomas pulled the bandage tight- and at the crux of the moment Jimmy made a wordless sound of pain- and leaned forward- suddenly digging the fingers of his right hand into the space above Thomas’s knee. Thomas flinched in surprise, as Jimmy’s hand made contact with the muscle of his upper thigh, through his trousers- but Jimmy did not drop his hold- in fact he dug his fingertips in nearly painfully, for a moment, as Thomas looped the bandage again around his sprained wrist.

"Ah, stop pinching me, I can’t help it if it hurts,” Thomas said- but his voice came out sounding utterly, utterly strained. Between the heated press of Jimmy’s hand against his thigh- and the ceaseless movement of Jimmy’s knee between his knees- Thomas was going to be hard, hard in an instant, in a breath more. It was too easy, of course, for his body to respond to Jimmy, anyhow- his body ached for Jimmy- Thomas had succumbed to arousal, on many an evening, with naught but the image of Jimmy’s face in his mind’s eye-

"I’m not pinching you," Jimmy said, in a low tone- but he did not remove his hand. When Thomas paused in the bandaging, Jimmy eased up the painful pressure of his fingertips- but he didn’t move them. And Jimmy was right- it wasn’t a pinch- but still Jimmy’s palm was flat against Thomas’s leg, and Jimmy’s fingers were pressed into the muscle of Thomas’s thigh. “It just feels better this way, is all,” Jimmy added, so softly that Thomas thought he had misheard the words.

The air in the room felt too-thick- and with hand that had acquired a tremor, Thomas rolled the bandage between Jimmy’s thumb, making sure the layer of bandage above lined up with the one underneath. Thomas was particular about things like that. The task at hand, Thomas counseled himself. The task at hand the task at hand-

"Haven’t you ever had a girl bother you when y’weren’t interested?" Jimmy said- and his tone held a taut note- and when Thomas looked up, Jimmy’s pupils seemed to have swallowed up his irises. The pallor that had been evident on Jimmy’s face before was gone- and in the place of it, color burned across Jimmy’s cheeks, merry as a yuletide fire.

"Sure. A f-few times," Thomas said. Jimmy’s hand rested against his leg like a branding iron, scalding the flesh beneath it, even through a layer of cloth- and Thomas halted his wrapping, for a moment, just to buy a few seconds respite from Jimmy’s squeezing fingers. If he didn’t, Thomas was going to have an erection soon- and he could not have that, lord knew what Jimmy would do if he saw- he was liable to have a fit-

"A few times?" Jimmy repeated, his eyes still boring into Thomas’s face with that same curious intensity.

"Mmmhm. But I never took them out,” Thomas said- and realized, as he said it, that it was a lie.

"I’m sure you didn’t," Jimmy agreed- but Thomas shook his head, pushing away the reality of Jimmy’s touch- and started bandaging again. "Well. Maybe once or twice," Thomas amended. Jimmy’s eyes widened, a little- though that odd hazy look remained, upon his face. "You never,” Jimmy said- and then Thomas secured the bandage tightly, again- and Jimmy’s fingers dug in, so that he and Thomas both gasped, at the same moment.

Ouch,” Jimmy said, shakily- and Thomas let out a small, uncomfortable laugh. “Ouch yourself,” Thomas said- and the color on Jimmy’s face deepened- and his fingers unclenched- but still he kept his palm against Thomas’s leg- and- and he moved his hand, sliding it a few inches further upwards. Further up Thomas’s thigh.

It was no use- Thomas bit the inside of his own cheek, and then bit his own tongue when that proved ineffective, letting pain flood through him, to push away his lust. It was not enough, though- now the servant’s hall seemed very warm, and Thomas’s pulse was steadily increasing. He felt as if Jimmy could feel the swift beat of his heart, even in his thigh-

No don’t think about it don’t think about his hands his face his touch his body you have a job to do and you can do it and get the bloody hell out of here before he calls you deviant screams at you gets offended- just do it as quick as you bloody well can-

Thomas thoughts rushed through his skull like blood, spurred on by his pounding heart- and he took a lungful of air, making his inhale long and deep, and his exhale slow and measured.

Oh,” Jimmy said, his eyes falling shut, as Thomas pulled the bandage around his wrist a final time. “That’s the worst of it, I think,” Thomas said. His voice sounded shaky in his own ears. Jimmy’s eyes opened- and he looked at his wrist- and then at Thomas. Thomas wanted to cross his legs- but Jimmy’s knee was between his knees- and he could not do it without drawing attention to himself. Then his state of arousal would certainly be noticed. Jimmy, despite Thomas’s pronouncement, did not remove his hand from Thomas’s body- and Thomas prayed for deliverance, from this most trying situation- or from his own terrible lust- and he started to run the bandage up Jimmy’s arm a little ways, just to secure it- working as quickly as he could.

"I’m sure a lot of girls fancied you," Jimmy said. His voice has a curiously fragile quality to it. "You’re a handsome bloke. No-one would ever…"

The thought was probably meant to end in some derisive comment- but Jimmy trailed off, his lips parted, as he watched Thomas cut the bandage with the sewing scissors, and unhook the clasp on the first pin. “Don’t sleep on your arm, these can come undone- and you’re… you’re liable to end up with a pin in your face,” Thomas said. He had meant for his words to be firm, in-control- but they came out sounding vague, as if Thomas were speaking from behind a layer of gauze himself. Most of the blood in Thomas’s body felt like it had pooled between his legs- and his cock twitched with each beat of his heart, until he was achingly hard. Jimmy’s hand lay very close to the evidence of Thomas’s arousal- and Thomas knew he would give himself away, if Jimmy glanced in the direction of his lap- he knew it- and so he met Jimmy’s eyes, holding his gaze. “Sleep- with your arm under a pillow or something,” Thomas added, just to keep Jimmy’s attention on his face. Thomas dropped his head, just for a moment- to secure the first pin- and then he searched out Jimmy’s eyes again. Jimmy met his look once more- had Jimmy been studying him? Had Jimmy noticed? Thomas could not be sure- but Jimmy did not move his hand away- and so Thomas felt somewhat reassured. It’s not like that’s something he’s looking for, Thomas told himself- and, still holding Jimmy’s eyes, Thomas popped open the second pin- and promptly stabbed himself on it.

"Hell," Thomas cursed, shaking his hand in irritation- and a drop of blood appeared on the tip of his index finger, neat as a fairytale. For a moment, the sting of it brought Thomas relief- the minor pain distracted him from the ache of his cock- and then Jimmy blinked, a few times, at Thomas’s injury- and withdrew his hand from Thomas’s thigh. 

"You’re bleeding," Jimmy said, in a strange, inflectionless tone- and he grabbed Thomas’s right hand with his own right hand- and stared at the drop of blood. Thomas could still feel the precise spot where Jimmy’s palm had rested, on his leg- and he drew a hitching breath, and shifted in his seat.

"It’s nothing," Thomas said- but he could not make his tone right- it wavered all over the place, even in only two words. Jimmy’s hand slid against Thomas’s fist- and suddenly Jimmy drew Thomas’s hand to his mouth- and licked the blood from Thomas’s fingertip- his tongue appeared, and brushed against Thomas’s skin- and then vanished- leaving only a tingling sensation in the wake of it.

Aahh," Thomas blurted out, exhaling as if he had been struck. "Ah, Jimmy, what’re you-"

"I’m sorry I got you hurt," Jimmy said- his face was a brilliant red, now- and he dropped Thomas’s hand, abruptly, and ducked his head. This is too much, Thomas thought- and he made to move his legs, to shift, and cover his erection, whether Jimmy’s knee was awkwardly in the way or not- but Jimmy shook his head. “Don’t do that,” Jimmy said, firmly- and Thomas stilled, unsure of Jimmy’s meaning.

"I.." Thomas’s mind went blank- and he stared at Jimmy, taking note of the way that Jimmy’s chest moved up and down, up and down- until Jimmy put his hand, very deliberately, back on Thomas’s thigh. The muscles of Thomas’s stomach clenched immediately in response.

"Go on, then," Jimmy said. Jimmy’s voice wavered. “You still have those two pins to do.”

"Right," Thomas said thickly, gripping the edge of the table. "Right." As he grasped the pin that had wounded him, Thomas felt Jimmy’s hand inch upwards- and Thomas’s body shuddered, involuntarily.

"Go on," Jimmy repeated- and Thomas felt Jimmy’s thumb brush against the tip of his cock, through the fabric of his trousers.

"Nnh. I- Jimmy, I-" Thomas said, helplessly- he half-bent forward, dropping the pin, the pleasure so unexpected and so intense that he felt paralyzed by it.

"Go. On,” Jimmy said, in a shaking voice- and he rubbed his thumb in a circle, around the head of Thomas’s penis.

"Oh, god, a-alright," Thomas ground out- and he picked up the second pin again, dropping it a second time, before he could force his unsteady hands to perform the simple task of pinning the bandage in place. Jimmy’s head was very close to Thomas’s now- his breath rapid against the side of Thomas’s face- and with his good hand, he rubbed his knuckles against the length of Thomas’s cock.

"Ah, nnnhhh alright,” Thomas half-moaned- he managed to unclasp the final pin- and with a jerky movement- he pinned in into the bandage. His hips came up, try as Thomas did to keep them still- and he heard Jimmy make some noise- but Jimmy continued to touch him.

"God. The way you move," Jimmy said- his voice was guttural, now- and he leaned back, so that his face was kissing-distance from Thomas’s.

"Jimmy," Thomas whispered, through trembling lips- "I’ve finished- ah-h- Jimmy what are we doin-“

Jimmy cut him off with a kiss, dragging their mouths together- and as he pressed his pliant lips against Thomas’s, Jimmy squeezed- applying pressure to Thomas’s erection- and Thomas groaned into Jimmy’s mouth, making a sound that would have been far too loud, if it had not been muffled by the kiss- Thomas was so close, embarrassingly close- and he-

But then Jimmy pulled away, leaning back- with his good hand and his bound hand both up in the air, in a universal cease and desist gesture.

"Alright, alright," Jimmy muttered- his avoided Thomas’s gaze- but laughed, without looking up.

Thomas slumped backwards in the chair, his pulse pounding. He had been so close that his cock was leaking, and he felt an unpleasant discomfort settle in around his lower abdomen.

It seems a little thing, one that you could obscure, if you so chose- and yet it is the stuff of the universe entire,” Jimmy said, in a ragged voice- and Thomas looked at him, in confusion- before he realized that Jimmy was quoting the last passage of the book they had just read.

"Are you alright?" Thomas asked. It was clear that Jimmy was coming to grips with- with something- and still Thomas felt his heart beat wildly, and his mood lift. He wants me, Thomas thought- and he studied the length of Jimmy’s form, feeling his own body respond appreciatively to the sight. Wants me, Thomas thought. Yes, definitely wants me-

"I’m fine but I need to go to bed," Jimmy said, a touch mechanically- and Jimmy rose carefully to his feet, gathering his jacket- and treating Thomas to a view of Jimmy’s reciprocal- and rather obvious- arousal. "Thank you for bandaging my hand, Mr. Barrow," Jimmy intoned- with a stiff formality that did nothing to hide his desire.

"Anytime," Thomas said. He found he could not yet gather the strength to stand, himself.

"Yes," Jimmy agreed- and he bent down, stiffly, from the waist- and brushed his lips, almost imperceptibly, against Thomas’s cheek. "Tomorrow," Jimmy added, with more tenderness in his tone- and then he left the room.

Tomorrow, Thomas thought- and he looked down, at the sewing scissors, silly engraved shoe-advertisement and all. They had seemed cheap- but now they seemed lovely- and- and whimsical. Thomas thought he would keep them- and he pocketed them- and, as an afterthought, he opened the book again, to the last page.

'…It seems a little thing, one that you could obscure, if you so chose- and yet it is the stuff of the universe entire. The stars are not, in fact, without pity- they are just far away. To them we are but a remote, inconsequential thing- but to us, they are the sky.'

Such boundless wisdom, Thomas thought, looking at the text- he tried to think it derisively- but he failed. It was lovely.

"Lovely," Thomas said, aloud- and the word echoed around him, in the otherwise silent space- and gave him a curious feeling of enchantment. Tomorrow with Jimmy Kent, Thomas thought- and he smiled, with no one to see him. Not even the distant stars.