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"James,
My truest love."

James is pulling on his boots, laughing in the early morning light at Thomas' temptations. Thomas offers chocolate, coffee, the best cook in Westminster, and his lazy, reflective smile. James won't take him up on it. James will come back. Thomas is in love. Does James know?

"Σταθώ στην ομορφιά της ζωής, Ιακωβος."* For his part, Thomas can't do anything but, right now.

Does James know that this was the first time there was no shadow in his eyes as they lay together, that when Thomas held James through his shuddering small death Thomas knew, he knew, James had felt nothing but bare skin and a rushing in his ears.

"Today? I think I will find none outside this room today, my --" James' voice cuts out for a beat, the tightening of his shoulders barely visible as he masters himself. "Thomas." His smile is a ghost of the night's.

James leaves for Whitehall in Admiralty blue, hair in a neat queue. Thomas thinks about the way James can tie a hundred knots as easily as breathing, how Miranda's fingers can deftly loop silk ribbons into drooping beauty. Both of them with their hands over his, teaching him to play the part of steward. The way the back of James' neck felt under his lips just now, with the kiss that will carry James through the day and back to him, kept safe under hair and hat and a knot of silk that Thomas tied.

At his desk, with great ceremony and a bubbling sort of joy in his heart, Thomas opens to the blankness of the inside cover. This book is still new and clean, the pages bright with possibility. Τὰ εἰς ἑαυτόν*, like James is his. Miranda had sent out for it weeks ago with a knowing twist of her lips, eyes glinting when she slid it into a drawer of the desk. He dips the quill, and holds it still and quiet for a moment. He watches the drops of ink fall onto the blotting paper, the way they sink into the fibers.

The sweetness of James in the night, his straight hips and the tense strength of his thighs. James kneeling above him, wrapping his hand around Thomas' cock with oil slick palm and eyes desperately wide, breathing heavy and hard. Looking for all the world like he would die right then if Thomas didn't let himself go.

The feeling is heady even now, remembering how Thomas' breathing went harsh in his own ears and that in this moment of his own pleasure James could feel some safety, some light in the dark. James' murmuring in his ear, his other arm holding Thomas close at the waist, barely enough room between them for James' hand to keep pumping. His back arching into James' iron grip, his hand gripping at James' thigh. James' lips and teeth and tongue suspended over the muscles of his neck, hovering at the edge of control. Thomas' head falling back. James lowering him back down to the bed, cradling Thomas' neck like a bird's broken wing.

The ink has dried. He dips the quill again. Blots it. Brings it to the paper.

He wants James like that forever, he wants to build James and himself a fortress so strong and safe that James never thinks to let the shutter fall across his face again. The hope and prayer that this moment of possibility, of discovery, of freedom James found last night will last him the rest of his days, keep him safe on every voyage, keep him coming home.

"Know no shame."

"T.H."