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A Seditious Affair

By:K.J. Charles

things Silas wouldn't do, and the ways that Silas could know what the Tory wanted without making him say it. Because that was the Tory's problem: Silas didn't understand much of this, but he understood right off that it was no good for him to say out loud how he wanted it, if he even could. That would leave him master still, giving the orders, ruling from his knees. Not what the Tory needed; no good to him at all.

So Silas didn't ask. Instead he'd learned. He'd read the Tory's body and the pleas in his eyes, puzzled out his wants and needs, and while he was at it, he'd learned to enjoy the games that weren't games at all. The ways he could make the Tory bend and break. And that had been a pleasure all on its own … but then they'd started talking.

He couldn't remember which of them had started it, whose chance comment had begun an argument. Had no idea now when the first bottle had been laid out and waiting on his arrival, what day he had said, Have you read … and how long after that before the Tory had handed him a book and said, Tell me what you think. He didn't know when the fucking had become just one part of the night's pleasure, the thing they did before talking.

That was Wednesdays. That had been Wednesdays for a full year now, only a handful missed, so that Silas's life ran from Wednesday to Wednesday, everything between marking time, and the very sound of Thursday was enough to make him snarl at his shop boy for the aching, empty week to come.

They still didn't know each other's names.

"If you ain't read A Vindication of the Rights of Women-" Silas said.

"Rights, rights, rights." The Tory drained his glass. Silas reached for the bottle. "You talk endlessly of rights, but I never hear you speak of duties or the proper maintenance of social order. Every Jack or Jill cannot be master."

"Speaks a master," Silas returned. "You'd feel different in my shoes."

"In your shoes," the Tory began, then stopped. "Well, in your shoes, I might feel differently about many things. Do you know what day it is?"

"Wednesday."

"It's a year."

"What's a year?"

"A year since you and I first … " The Tory waved a hand.

"Is it? A year, eh?" Silas had no idea what to do with that information.

The Tory sat up. "I mention it because … Ah, the devil. I suppose I've never told you about Richard."

"Who's that?" Lover? Son?

"My friend," the Tory said. "My closest friend, all my life. Boys together. Lovers since we were fourteen. I thought it would be forever, he and I."

"Aye? What happened?" Silas asked, since the Tory seemed to want to talk.

"I did. My damned … whatever is wrong with me that I want this." The Tory swept a hand around the room.

"Oi. Nothing wrong with you."

"Is there not? I am a gentleman of good family. I should not want men at all, and I should certainly not want men to … abuse me. But I do."

Silas had no idea what to say to that. It was damned odd, and he'd often thought so. He'd assumed the Tory knew what he was about. "Well, but it does for you, don't it?"

"It does very well for me, and you don't need telling so, but why does it do? Why do I like these things?"

"Quot homines tot sententiae," Silas observed, a little self-consciously, because he was probably saying it wrong.

The Tory's brows shot up. "Where did you learn Latin?"

"Same school I learned the rest." From the parson, then from his fellow radicals, then from his books. Self-taught, reading day and night. "It's right, though, ain't it? This many men, that many opinions. We all got different ways, and yours is different from most, that's the long and short of it." And why was the Tory fretting about this now, when they'd been fucking happily for a year? "Something happen? You all right?"

"Yes. Yes, very well. Just, a conversation earlier this week that made me feel somewhat … A conversation with Richard."

Back to him again. Silas frowned. "So what about this fellow?"

The Tory tipped his head back and shut his eyes. "He is a very kind and caring man."

"Ah."

"Quite."

"No good to you then."

"Indeed not. I tried to explain, you see. We were, what, twenty-two? I thought he might understand. He didn't. He was disgusted. It is … hard, to see disgust on the face of the man you love above all others. He was revolted by what I asked of him, and then … I had to tell him what we had, without that, wasn't enough for me. That I didn't love him enough to forget my own filthy wants."

His voice ached. Silas wanted to hold him, pull him close. "That's hard."

"I thought it was right, until I saw his face, heaven help me. And one can't take that sort of thing back once spoken. My poor Richard."

"Poor Richard?" Silas repeated. "He couldn't play a bedroom game or two for your sake, and it's poor Richard?"

"He's a principled, decent man, and I gave him the choice between doing something that repelled him or ending what we had. I hurt him so much."

It sounded the other way around to Silas. He felt an urge to take this prig of a Richard fellow and slam his head into a wall, knock some sense into him. Some prancing fop or stick-up-his-arse country squire, no doubt. Some cowardly prick who couldn't see a good thing when he had one in his bed. It wasn't as if Silas had made a habit of playing the bully in the bedroom before. He was a heavy-handed man, granted, not one for lover's knots and soft words, but the idea of hurting or insulting a bedfellow on purpose had still seemed damned peculiar. He'd learned to do it, and like it, for the Tory.

The Tory, whose voice rang with a pain that scraped Silas's nerves. He was in his late thirties and still mooning over a boys' affair fifteen years back?

Bloody idiocy. "Maybe you did, but nature can't be helped. You got your nature, and if this Richard fellow wasn't man enough for it"-he rode on over the Tory's protest-"that's his loss. There's no way around it with you. A man needs to be cruel to be kind."

The Tory spluttered into his wineglass. "Damn you. And you're right. Not that it was Richard's failing, but that it had to be done." He sighed. "It was hard, though. It affected our friendship for a long time. And I couldn't find what I needed, and it wasn't safe trying."

"No." Silas had heard all about that. He's going to get himself killed, Jon had said. Can't get what he wants from whores, so he goes looking in alleys. Silas didn't want to think about that, about the Tory and the stupid risks he'd run. How easily he could have been lost, broken and bleeding. "So what's this to do with today?"

The Tory hesitated, then grinned, a sudden boyish smile that made him look much younger. "Well, that it has been a good year. That you understand what even Richard does not, and I appreciate your understanding, my friend." He moved his glass to chink it against Silas's. "Thank you."

"Cheers." Silas could feel his face redden. He drained his glass to cover his confusion, then plucked the Tory's away and set them both down. "Well, seems to me, if this is an anniversary, it calls for a celebration."

"Oh yes?" Those dark eyes hooded, already anticipating. He stretched out, arms above his head, something like a lazy movement, but one that brought muscle and sinew into play.

Silas swung a leg over the Tory's chest and sat firmly, his bulk as effective a prison as any chains. He leaned forward, grabbed the Tory's wrists, and pushed down, digging his fingers into the flesh till he was sure he'd leave marks. A little anniversary gift for his Tory to cherish till next week, and if that bloody Richard fellow saw them, so much the better. The Tory moaned in helpless protest, attempting to twist free.

"Celebration, I said," Silas told him. "And I'm going to celebrate you till you won't walk straight for days."

Chapter 2

OCTOBER 1819

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