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Flame on a Fire

© Carole Cummings


Kimolijah looses a fairly embarrassing little yawp of surprise as he’s flipped to his back and pinned by every inch of Bas’s rather considerable weight. 

“You’ve been slinging sex about all bleeding night like you’re pitching horseshoes,” Bas growls, “and now you’re going to tease me?” 

Well, yes, all right, teasing had rather been the plan, and Kimolijah wouldn’t say he’d been “slinging sex”—and what an odd way to put that at any rate; horseshoes?—but he might have been… well… lobbing it a bit, and up until this very second, Bas had seemed happy enough to go along with it. Bas is always happy to go along with it. Well, not happy, really, since the teasing is designed to make him pissy and twitchy, but Kimolijah rather thinks the mind-blowing sex that always results serves to tame Bas quite nicely for days afterwards. Or not tame him, as it were. It’s just better when Bas is irritated, when he’s driving into it like he’s trying to blot everything from Kimolijah’s mind but himself—when he’s out to prove something. And he always proves it damned definitively. 

The second the silk goes around his wrist, Kimolijah knows that this time, he has seriously miscalculated. 

“We’ll just see about teasing, won’t we?” Bas says, almost to himself, it seems, muttering something through his teeth about “busy hands”, eyes dark and mouth set, hands rough and almost cruel. 

Before Kimolijah even really realizes what’s happening, he’s got one wrist wound in Bas’s scarf, jammed up against the spindles of the headboard.  

And everything just sort of… shifts

This isn’t teasing anymore, and it isn’t any sort of game, and maybe that’s it, maybe that’s why Kimolijah’s chest is suddenly constricted and why his stomach has cramped up and gone cold. His gridTech bubbles in his veins, blue sparks flittering at his fingertips and fizzing in his palm. Defensive reflex; he can’t help it. It happens sometimes. Even before his mind registers threat, it just happens. He’s working on it.


There’s abruptly something close to outrage pounding against his temples, he can’t help that either, it’s there, anger, maybe, but it’s knocking relentlessly against something even more sudden and thoroughly confusing, a flash of erotic hunger that’s gone through Kimolijah’s groin and turned him so hard it actually hurts. And that makes it all much worse, more mystifying.

He’s not a prisoner anymore. He’s not slowly dying, or wishing he was dying, and chipping away at everything he thought he was out in some desert wasteland, captive to a robber baron who’s stolen his life, his Tech, his mind, everything about him. He’s not there anymore. Bas made sure of that.

But this.


A bitter little shard of angerbetrayal spikes through Kimolijah, something sharp and hot that he doesn’t take the time to identify, but it almost feels like adding vague insult to imagined injury: he’d hated that stupid scarf, from the moment Bas had donned it. One of those ugly, long-droopy-wide things, all pretension and artifice, and Bas is neither of those things, so it kind of pisses Kimolijah off. And from the moment Bas had mulishly insisted upon wearing the awful thing to the Directorate’s reception—

You’re a Directorate Tracker. You’re being promoted an entire grade. This makes you look like a rookie who’s trying too hard.

Shut up, my mam gave it to me.

That doesn’t mean you have to wear it!

My mam gave it to me.

—Kimolijah had spent a ridiculous amount of time all afternoon and evening thinking about how he was going to find a way to burn it later. And to not only find himself abruptly held down like this, but to find himself held down by that bloody ugly scarf.

He has no idea what to do with the jumble of visceral emotion rapidly hazing his vision red, so he directs the anger at the scarf and at Bas, but something in him knows it isn’t that simple. The clash of sudden and inexplicable burning lust against something that feels like real and too-deep fear sends his mind retreating, even as tumblers roll and click in his head, unlocking something he doesn’t know if he wants to let loose, forcing him into a place he’d been happy not to go five seconds ago. 

Bas isn’t joking, Kimolijah can tell, he’s dead serious, and the conflict in Kimolijah’s gut is making it curl and clench, even as his free hand is curling and clenching itself into a tight fist, filaments of gridstream turning to sparks at the tips of his fingers.

A weapon.

Should he need it.

He won’t. He knows he won’t.

It doesn’t really help.

He can see the moment when realization flashes through Bas’s mind, the moment when everything that’s just flared hot and bright through Kimolijah hits him, and Kimolijah wonders if it burns Bas, too, this scritch of fearwant that blitzes his senses and makes it hard to breathe. The dark, heavy lust in Bas’s eyes goes wavery and chaotic, awareness flitting through a stormy blue-black haze, and they both go still, breathless, the air suddenly far too heavy for Kimolijah to suck in a good gulp of it, and weighted, like there’s an anvil on his chest. He can hear the trepidation in Bas’s ragged breathing, can see it in the asking-demanding in Bas’s eyes, can feel it in the lurching slip-thud of his own heart, and Kimolijah’s skin goes all clammy, like a wash of cold oil is misting up from his pores. 

Kimolijah bucks up, tries to pull himself out of Bas’s hold, but Bas doesn’t move, doesn’t let go, and somehow it goes right to Kimolijah’s groin, sends tingling heat through him, and he almost hates Bas for it, for making him feel it, for making him know it. The resistance is instinctive and feral, something so fundamentally a part of Kimolijah that he doesn’t even really think about it, can’t really think about it, it won’t make definable shapes in his mind, because if he thinks, he’ll have to remember, and he won’t, he refuses. But the profound craving is no less elemental, deep-seated and near-brutal, and that makes it all somehow frighteningly mortifying. 

Hold me, make me yours, prove it, just for now, just for right now, it thrums through Kimolijah’s blood, and he flinches away from it, and Trust me, I won’t let go, and we can pretend it doesn’t mean anything tomorrow answers him back in one small hint of a tear trapped in the lashes at the corner of Bas’s eye. 

And they’re in their dark heart, that place they never talk about, never even acknowledge, but it defines them—Them, KimolijahandBas—that place that only exists when they’re inside each others’ skins. If they speak it, if they even let themselves think it, it could end them, because neither one of them can admit they want it, need it, burn for it, not even to themselves, especially not to themselves, and especially not to each other. 

Yet here it is, threatening to make itself something solid and real between them, and how will they ever deny it if this goes wrong? 

He can feel every fiber in the fabric against his wrist, can see every thought that caroms through Bas’s mind like it’s written in fiery ink on his dilated pupils: Trust me, and I’ll make it good, and Let me, and I promise.

Kimolijah wants to believe it, he really does, that hard knot in his belly unfisting in the wash of confused ravenous yearning that crashes over him through the stillness and ringing silence like waves over a breakwater. And the fact that he does want to believe it makes the humiliation almost tangible, he can taste it, all sour-sweet and bitter, because this isn’t a simple thing, it could mean everything if it turns out to mean nothing, and what if it does? What if that’s all it turns out to be: a moment of abandon that ruins trust forever? 

“Don’t,” Bas breathes, hands tightening, eyes locked to Kimolijah’s, near-black with intensity and wanting and purpose, and he dips down low, nearly blinding Kimolijah to everything but the gravity and frankness of that gaze. “I know.” 

And there it is, right there. An eternity of unfurling potential, of maybe, of what if?, this wide, thick swath of possibility that fans out and distends itself, curls through Kimolijah’s chest and just… waits. Because yeah, Bas does know, even if Kimolijah likes to pretend no one could, and maybe that’s all right, maybe it’s even good, and maybe Kimolijah can stop it from being nothing if he doesn’t make it everything. 

Bas’s eyes change, go all fierce and glittery, and he growls a little. “Stop,” he tells Kimolijah. “You think too much, you always have,” and he ignores the deadly current teasing at Kimolijah’s fingertips, like he knows. And God, like it fucking obeys Bas and not Kimolijah, the stream snuffs out beneath Bas’s hands, tingling up Kimolijah’s wrists and following a phantom path of ink and scars that do nothing more than remind Kimolijah of exactly what it is he’s trying to forget.

Like he knows, like he’s trying to obliterate the memory with nothing but his touch, Bas’s hands tighten again at Kimolijah’s wrists, push them up towards the headboard, and before Kimolijah can even make his mind consider what all of it might really mean, Bas is kissing him. Not even kissing him, really—devouring him, seducing his sanity away from him with hot swipes and dips of the tongue, brutal scrapes of teeth that somehow don’t hurt but flare fierce craving through him and make his hips lift off the bed, and push. Bas groans, the vibrations of it careening through Kimolijah’s chest and dragging all through him. It’s as if there’s this wide chasm inside Kimolijah, and he’s been pretending it doesn’t exist for so long that it’s staggering his mind to have it suddenly filled with all this astonishing possibility. 

His hands are useless lumps, lying docile while Bas works at the fabric, only curling in on themselves, and Kimolijah wonders if it’s some kind of blind, ass-backward lunatic instinct that makes him tense and wary, yet prevents him from doing anything about it. He can get loose, for five more seconds, before Bas completes that last knot Kimolijah can feel weaving against his skin, he can get loose, and something in him is screaming, Why aren’t you? What’s wrong with you? and something else is throttling it into silence. 

It’s this kiss, he thinks vaguely, it’s making me insane, stealing my sense, and it is, sort of, because his mind doesn’t seem to want to work properly, and all he can seem to make himself do is groan into Bas’s mouth, let him take whatever he wants, give him whatever he wants, beg him to take it, and why has Bas never kissed him like this before? It’s hot and all-encompassing, Bas’s mouth somehow soft and cruel all at once, teeth nipping and tongue swiping, as Bas’s hands start to move, begin the process of stripping Kimolijah of every last bit of will. 

There’s nothing soft or gentle about the touch that scours down his arms, pausing now and then to knead at a muscle, thumbs digging in and grinding tendon into bone, and every time Bas deliberately—deliberately, the bastard—traces a light fingertip over a swirl of black ink, it makes Kimolijah arch up, stutter in a sharp breath. And then—and then—like the horrible, horrible person he is, Bas lifts himself away, mouth and hands the only things touching Kimolijah, and it should be enough, it really should, what with the thorough job of debauchery they’re doing, but Kimolijah actually aches with wanting more. He wants the kiss to go deeper until he chokes and has to breathe it, wants the hands to dig in harder until they start peeling back skin, and every inch of him that Bas isn’t touching is burning, stinging with want and a tiny seed of rage at the frustration of it all. So he keeps arching, stretching, but Bas is still stroking at biceps and elbows and shoulders, ignoring Kimolijah’s muffled growls and moaning pleas, and Kimolijah can’t do a bloody thing about it because this kiss has made him completely unbalanced. 

He can’t shake the feeling that he should be abashed, that a mere strip of silk should not spark this vicious lust, should not empty his mind so easily, and what does this make of him, that he’s so willing to yield like this after... everything? That he’s so willing to believe and trust, when three years of captivity—slavery, just say it, a slightly less ugly word doesn’t make it a less ugly thing—when three years of slavery have given him every reason not to? And yet one earnest look of significance, one deep, mind-numbing kiss, a few skillful touches, and it’s abruptly reduced to near-insignificance, nothing more than flame on a fire—there, undeniable, but impossible to identify through the conflagration.

The question winds through him, coils like a spring and tenses his limbs, and something like a strangled little moan lurks at the back of his throat, but he doesn’t let it loose. Bas draws back, plots a line of nipping kisses from Kimolijah’s jaw to his collarbone, tongue flicking and swiping, and fingertips following, firm and almost too sensate, like he has every intention of tracing every vein and muscle beneath Kimolijah’s skin. 

“Stop thinking,” Bas says again, almost a snarl this time, right against Kimolijah’s throat, and it makes Kimolijah feel ridiculously vulnerable, Bas’s teeth right up against his jugular like that, but then Bas is sucking, too, pushing his thigh into Kimolijah’s groin. And yes, fuck yes, that’s a superb idea, a bloody brilliant idea, because Kimolijah really can’t think anymore, anyway, not with Bas’s mouth so hot and sure and demanding, blocking out everything but the heat of it, and the nonsense whispers Bas is breathing against Kimolijah’s skin, almost like chanting, sending Kimolijah into a state that’s thick and enfolding and almost dreamlike. 

Kimolijah closes his eyes, tips his head back, and… Just. Stops. Thinking. 

Bas gives a little mmm of approval, like he knows, and that’s somehow comforting, helps the springs to uncoil a bit and knock down the tensile humming in Kimolijah’s chest a few notches. He concentrates on the heat of Bas’s mouth, how he can tell when Bas takes a breath because that heat disappears for a millisecond, makes Kimolijah’s skin prickle with the loss of the intensity, and then ripple hot with its return. 

Bas’s hands travel down the sides of Kimolijah’s ribs, palms flat and fingers splayed, like he doesn’t want to miss touching anything, thumbs hooked around and sweeping over chest then ribcage then belly, stopping just short and only grazing the dark thatch beneath Kimolijah’s navel, even when Kimolijah rocks his hips up in subdued demand. Kimolijah swears he can feel the whorls on Bas’s fingertips as they slide across the small of his back, dig in just a little bit, just enough to make Kimolijah gasp in a juddering breath, before moving on to sweep his torso, all laggard and leisurely, like Bas has got all the time in the world and Kimolijah isn’t in the process of vibrating right out of his skin. The slow sweeping anticipation of it fizzes through Kimolijah’s chest then screws in and tightens when there’s no reward, only Bas’s hands gripping snug to Kimolijah’s hips for a quick second before traveling down his thighs. 

And all the while, Bas’s mouth moves over him, tongue swiping hot stripes over Kimolijah’s collarbones, stopping to investigate the dip between them before taking a teasing bite just above Kimolijah’s left nipple. Kimolijah arches up, he can’t help it, lets a little gasp loose from his throat, and almost snarls when Bas only chuckles a little, then slides his tongue in a wide circle, never touching the nipple, flaring the want in Kimolijah’s belly and chest into something hard and humming.  

Hands curving slow and light along the insides of Kimolijah’s thighs, Bas’s mouth dips down lower, pauses at the narrow valley of Kimolijah’s breastbone, drops kisses like a small storm of moths as his fingertips trail and tease at the crease where Kimolijah’s thighs meet his groin. A hot gust of breath billows over Kimolijah’s erection, so close Kimolijah can feel the moisture from Bas’s mouth settling over him, all prickly and sanity-stealing, and Kimolijah sucks in a harsh breath, hips lifting all on their own, but all he gets is a raspy little chuckle from Bas and broad hands over his hipbones, pushing him down. Bas’s touch keeps going from hard and ruthless to soft and teasing, and the disparity of it is snatching at Kimolijah’s sense, making him coil and contort himself, trying to anticipate which touch is coming next and where and when, and why won’t Bas just touch him? 

Kimolijah groans frustration, pushes up again, but Bas grips the thick muscles of Kimolijah’s thighs, presses him down, and stops moving. And then he draws away. 

Nonononono, don’t go, don’t leave me here like this, Kimolijah can almost hear the warbling half-tones of it, and it’s stupid, it’s bloody absurd, but he only just keeps it locked behind his teeth. To go from near-overwhelming sensation to all this nothing is almost more than he can take, and he clenches his jaw, tries to calm himself before he starts begging Bas to touch him, just touch him, damn it, why won’t Bas touch— 

“D’you want to stop?” 

Kimolijah’s mind stutters. His eyes snap open and narrow at Bas; Bas only looks back steadily from beneath his tangled fringe, firelight snatching gold from brown and sparking it into honeyed-sienna. Bas is propped up on his elbows now, hands flat to the mattress to either side of Kimolijah’s ribs, knees snugged to either side of Kimolijah’s hips.  

Kimolijah hadn’t even really thought that he could stop—wasn’t that the whole point of the scarf?—and some part of him wants to snarl and snap at Bas for giving him the option, because what is he supposed to do with it? Yes, I want to stop feeling the amazing things your mouth and your hands can do to me before I even find out how much more amazing it can be, or No, this makes me too raw and powerless and I don’t know how much more I can take before I lose something important

But here it is, here’s that control he’d thought defines him, and it’s being put back into his hands—his bound hands, his useless hands—and there’s got to be something profound in there somewhere, some weighty metaphor Kimolijah’s just too goddamned muddled right now to suss. 

Kimolijah locks his gaze with Bas’s, tries to look deep and right into his heart, and everything goes still again. Kimolijah can feel the sweat sliding down his temples, can feel it sheening his whole body, sticking his shoulders to the soft linen of the pillowcase. He can hear the slow flicker of the fire, smell the sooty-gray scent of it, watch the echoed dance of the flames in the shadows slide-slicking over Bas’s chest. And he’s just so amazingly lovely, that Kimolijah almost can’t believe he’s here, with him, and looking at him with that broad question in his eyes, turning this night into something almost too significant. 

This was supposed to be another rollicking shag, a night of growled laughter and tumbling about on sweat-damp sheets after a day of patent innuendo in a place where Bas could do nothing but fume quietly until Kimolijah finally got him home and in bed. And now look what it’s become. Something big and full of implications Kimolijah’s not sure they’re ready to define. 

“You’re thinking again,” Bas says softly. 

It startles him a little. Kimolijah thinks it’s odd, because Bas should be smiling or smirking when he says that, but he’s not. He’s only looking and waiting. 

It’s like a bright-white flare of coherency inside a storm of chaos. Kimolijah hadn’t known ten seconds ago what his answer was going to be, but he knows now. Maybe there are things they can’t speak, but not everything has to be defined, not everything should be defined, and Kimolijah decides this is one of those things. 

Bas’s gaze is somber and expectant, but there is no judgment inside it and no hint of what he wants Kimolijah’s answer to be. Kimolijah really does believe that Bas will accept his answer, whatever it is, and that belief is like all of the tumblers in all of the locks inside him turning all at once. 


 Bas’s expression hasn’t changed, and his voice is just as steady and patient. 

Kimolijah can’t help noticing how defined Bas’s body looks in the wavering light, how the silky shifts of muscle beneath his skin chisel strength across his chest and down his shoulders and arms. Kimolijah wants to touch them, trace the shadows in their dips and rises, taste the contrast as they flex, tighten and ripple, then relax. For a second or two, the need is high and bright, making his mouth water and heat pool in his belly. If he wasn’t tied to the bed, he thinks he might just wrench himself up and eat Bas alive, rip him apart just to get down to the core of him. 

He only shakes his head, says, “Kiss me.” 

Bas leans down, his thigh almostalmostalmost brushing against Kimolijah’s erection, and the heat baking off Bas’s skin nearly shakes Kimolijah to the bone. “Say it,” Bas tells him. 

Kimolijah almost doesn’t know what Bas wants him to say, but he opens his mouth and, “I don’t want to stop,” comes out of it, and that must have been the right thing, because Bas does kiss him, deep and hard and possessive, and it drags so far down inside him that Kimolijah thinks he might actually die if it stops. 

Bas groans, low and needy, and he shifts, wood and ticking whining and squeaking beneath his weight, and somehow the sounds they’re making—low moans and heavy breaths and the sticky susurrus of skin-on-skin—are so bloody full of sex that it’s a brand new assault all by itself, slicking over Kimolijah’s skin and making him twist and writhe. And Bas is barely even touching him. 

God, Kimolijah really really wants to sink his fingers into Bas’s hair, hold on and not let him move away, drag him down on top of himself and just keep pushpushpushing, grinding his pelvis into Bas’s hip until this excruciating want buzzing in his chest is finally sated. He wants Bas to keep kissing him like this, sucking his soul out, making him dizzy and euphoric, almost disembodied, and that’s all right, even the vertigo is all right, because Kimolijah doesn’t mind being lost in this, in the heat of Bas’s mouth, the desire coming off him in waves and washing all over Kimolijah, spiking need up through Kimolijah’s chest like he’s breathing it. 

But Bas draws back, and Kimolijah almost cries, he really does, he almost lets a few tears squeeze out from the corners of his closed eyes; not only because the loss is close to devastating, but maybe tears will make Bas take pity on him and let him have some more, just a little more, please— 

And then Bas’s hand is between Kimolijah’s legs, slick and warm with oil, and how did Kimolijah not hear Bas opening the drawer, how did he not notice the sharp smell of rosemary, how did he not—? 

Oh, bleedinggah, Bas!” is all Kimolijah manages as Bas’s hands start working inside him, and Kimolijah arches up off the bed as Bas twists his fingers. It’s like an explosion inside him, crushing through his chest and all up his backbone, spiraling out and out until every inch of him is tingling with it. Effervescent heat sluices all through him, jinks him about, until Bas has to grip Kimolijah’s hip and shove him back down. 

Kimolijah has some vague notion that he’s leaking obscenities, spilling them out like steam from a kettle, but it’s all garbled and breathless and even he can’t understand it, so he concentrates on more important things. Like how he’s going to shatter and fall apart pretty soon, if Bas doesn’t stop teasing and fuck him. Like how Bas’s hand is making his insides pool all hot and liquid, like lightning is splintering up his spine and melting him from the inside-out. Like how his erection feels tight and heavy, like he just might come any second, and Bas hasn’t even touched him yet, has made it a bloody point not to touch him. Like how Bas’s teeth and tongue, all hot and slick and finally on Kimolijah’s nipple, are making Kimolijah nearly lose his mind, making him wild and near-feral so that Bas has to actually lay a leg across Kimolijah’s knees to keep him from bucking himself right off the bed. 

Like how this overwhelming feeling of abandoned lust is exactly what had terrified him so when that silk had slid up against his wrist, and yet the yammering voice of the fear has transmuted into the wandering, mumbled curses falling from Kimolijah’s own mouth. 

Because right now, Bas could ask of Kimolijah anything, ask him to stand on his head and quack like a duck, and if it would get Bas to just fuck him, pleasepleaseplease God, fuck him already, Kimolijah would, he’d do it, he’d do it gladly and not care that he was handing over every bit of the control he’d lost along with three long horrible years of his life—the same control he’d been clinging to with an almost pathological desperation since he’d got it back. Bas could make him beg, and Kimolijah would, he knows he would, and it isn’t like Kimolijah hasn’t begged for it before, but not like this, not when it means something, not when the potential for losing… something is almost a live thing, breath and bone. 

But Bas won’t, and maybe that’s why this is all right, maybe that’s why the silk of the scarf isn’t burning and stripping Kimolijah’s skin raw, maybe that’s why Kimolijah feels open and exposed, but not as afraid as he thinks he might. Bas won’t, and they both know that right now, Kimolijah would let him, but Bas won’t, because cursing and writhing and sweating—that’s not all this is. 

This is more, this is everything, and Kimolijah almost can’t even remember why he’d been so afraid it might be nothing. 

Bas twists his wrist again, judders his hand a little, and the jarring shock of sensation rolls a thick shout from Kimolijah’s throat, shatters all through him in tiny, pinpoint explosions of frothy, blissful agony beneath his skin. This shouldn’t feel so new, but it’s like nothing Bas has ever done to him before, like he’s invented some new torturous maneuver designed specifically to drive Kimolijah out of his mind, fingers curling and twisting in a way that’s driving Kimolijah to a state just short of delirium, and jerking reactions out of him that he didn’t even know he had in him. It’s this spectacular, white… thing, there just aren’t any words, and it blazes all through him, makes him coil and scream, and why has Bas never done this before either?

Some miniscule part of Kimolijah’s mind that still insists on clinging to lucidity marks the manifest unfairness of having lived all these years without even knowing this kind of ecstasy existed, but the rest of him is busy babbling yesyesyes and trying to twist his body into any shape that might get him more. He tries to lift his hips, tries to rock a little, but every time he moves, Bas stops, goes still, and the frustration is like a sentient thing, crouching on Kimolijah’s chest, heavy enough to make him growl and snarl and curse. 

He has a sudden and searing sense of just exactly how much power he’s handed over to Bas, how much control, and he could reach for it back, could bark a command and Bas would follow it, Kimolijah knows that. Somehow Kimolijah doesn’t want it, and that would have seemed anathema just an hour ago, but the thought of wresting that control back now almost makes Kimolijah sob, and even that doesn’t embarrass him anymore. 

It feels like he’s been hard for hours, tied to this bed and writhing forever, strokes of pleasure burning through him until he thinks he might go insane. And every time he thinks it can’t possibly get better, he can’t possibly feel any more, it does and he does, and Bas takes him a little further into mind-numbing bliss. 

Body and mind coil and warp into new contortions that bend the concepts of reality, stretch the fabric of his Self, but none of it seems important now somehow, because Kimolijah doesn’t think he’s ever felt so blazingly alive as he does inside this moment. There’s this incredible, ironic freedom in all of this, and he thinks he might be laughing, something a little crazed and euphoric, but his mind won’t fix and latch on to any one thing for more than a fleeting second, so he’s not really sure, and that’s not important either. 

He’s somehow managed to push off Bas’s hold on his legs, lifted his knees, and he has no idea when that happened, but there they are, and Kimolijah digs his heels down into the mattress, rocks down onto Bas’s hand. 

“Please,” Kimolijah whispers, and his voice sounds strange, hoarse and broken, so he must have been screaming, and Huh, isn’t that funny? but he’s not really surprised and he really doesn’t care. “Please,” he says again, “want you, please.” 

Bas draws in a long breath, leans down. “Soon,” he says against Kimolijah’s lips. 

Bas,” Kimolijah groans—whines, begs—right into Bas’s mouth, and the needy, plaintive tone of it should be pathetic, but it isn’t, because Bas breathes it in, gives a little twist-jerk of his hand, and only slides the fingers of his other hand into Kimolijah’s hair when Kimolijah does it again. “Now, please now,” and it tapers off into breathless, garbled mutters when Bas’s thumb slide-scrapes over him. 

“Beautiful,” is all Bas whispers, voice calm and low, and in direct contrast to the filthy things his hands are doing to Kimolijah’s sanity. 

And this, this right here, this is it, this is what love is: knowing that you’d give anything, do anything, be anything, and you’d regret it later, but being sure that it won’t be asked of you anyway, so it’s all right, it’s all right to want, to take, to give, to know. 

Kimolijah’s heart beats behind his ribs like it’s trying to claw its way through. Skittering sensation on him, in him, way down deep inside, and it feels so amazingly good it actually bloody hurts, but not like pain, not like a discord of nerve-endings battering against one another. It’s a burn that could eat him up, could push him right to the end of himself, could send him rocketing to the ends of his own borders, a lunatic laugh caught blunt in his throat while he explodes into nothing. And the scariest part about it is that he just might smash through that end-barrier himself, with his own hands, batter and bloody them, if it means he can go on feeling this blinding rush of almost and ohfuckyes and one more push, help me, take me, keep me, don’t let go

But he doesn’t have to, because Bas is over him now, drawing his hand away, and Kimolijah would protest because the loss is almost painful, it really is, but Bas is pulling at Kimolijah’s leg, sliding it up and over his shoulder, so Kimolijah just shuts up and goes still, because he doesn’t want to do or say anything that will make Bas stop what he’s doing. He watches with rapt attention as Bas drops more oil into his palm, almost shatters into a million little pieces when Bas’s eyes close and his head falls back and his mouth opens, as he smears a hand over himself, pumps and slides it once, twice, and stutters out a little groan. 

Kimolijah realizes the whimpery little noises in his ears are coming from his own mouth, and he clamps it tight. Bas is gorgeous, just bloody gorgeous, all broad with his pale skin glistening with sweat, biceps flexing and catching at shadows as he moves his hand on himself. Kimolijah wants to touch him, he really wants his hands just for a moment, just so he can touch Bas, his fingers nearly burn with it. For the first time, Kimolijah seriously considers asking Bas to let him loose, just so he can sate the prickling, itchy want in his fingertips, satisfy at least one desire right now, touch everything he’s been denied and fill himself up with it. Instead, he slides his foot over Bas’s calf just to remind him he’s here and waiting, waiting, waiting, please don’t make me wait any more, it’s burning me to look at you and I’m bloody dying here! 

Bas peers down, locks his gaze to Kimolijah’s, smiles something soft and lovely at him. Kimolijah wants to bite that smile from off Bas’s lips, wants to gnaw away Bas’s calm, make him feel just as out of control as Kimolijah does, just because it’s so bloody fucking good that he wants Bas to feel it, too. And then Bas is taking hold of himself with one hand, gripping Kimolijah’s hip hard enough to hurt with the other, and guiding himself in. And Kimolijah forgets what control is. 

He arches, screams, the leg dangling over Bas’s shoulder locking up so that Kimolijah’s heel is grinding into the thick muscle beneath Bas’s shoulder blade, the other curling up tight to Bas’s ribs, digging in and trying to draw him in deeper, harder. Kimolijah’s hands are splayed, knuckles brushing against the smooth wood of the spindles, and his head is arched back so far he can see the veins in his arms standing out as he strains against the silk holding him down. He doesn’t need to see it; he can feel it, so he closes his eyes, concentrates on sensation. 

Bas is hard and hot inside him, grinding in slow at an angle that whites Kimolijah’s mind, scrapes spangling pressure all through him with each minute shift of Bas’s hips. Bas’s hand, fingers hot and palm filmed a little with sweat, drags down Kimolijah’s thigh, almost scalds him, sweeps a stuttering light touch over Kimolijah’s erection, and Kimolijah almost comes out of his skin, frothy spangles of blistering intensity sparking all over him and thumping down deep into his belly. It’s the first time Bas has actually touched him, and it threatens to send Kimolijah over the edge, just that quick. 

“All right?” Bas asks, voice low and heavy, like he’s got gravel in his throat. 

And Kimolijah has to think about it, has to really concentrate to make sense of it, because what kind of stupid fucking question is that, anyway? Is he all right? No, he’s not all right, he’s about to bloody die of sex, for God’s sake, and he grinds his teeth as he realizes Bas has gone still and is actually waiting for an answer. 

Kimolijah’s emotions are stretched out and bowed, joined and blurred together in the middle, and he can’t tell which is which; fear, lust, anger, love—it all feels the same, fearlustangerlove—and it makes his heart thud and his blood pulse hot through his veins until it reaches his brain and scour-scalds his mind. He is a great, jittering mass of feeling, of raw nerve-endings, like his skin can’t even contain him and hold him together anymore, he’s just a big puddle of sensation, and that’s all right, good even, hot and good, but there’s still something cold and oily beneath it all, and he doesn’t know what it is

Kimolijah tries to catch his breath, locks his jaw, because he thinks if he tries to speak, a stream of insult and invective is likely to spill out his mouth, if anything he says is even intelligible, and he really doubts that’s the answer Bas is looking for. Kimolijah calms the gulping that’s not really helping him breathe anyway, tames it down to a semisteady in-and-out. And he nods. 

“Say it,” Bas tells him. 

And this time Kimolijah’s pissed, he’s really bloody pissed, because Bas has driven him to a state that’s as close to senseless as he’d ever imagined he could be, and now he wants coherent conversation? Kimolijah clenches his hands into fists, squeezes his legs as together as they can get until one knee is digging into the side of Bas’s neck and the other is grinding into his ribs so hard that Bas chuffs out a sharp little gasp. 

Kimolijah narrows his eyes, sends a few sparks shooting from his fingers and up the wall behind the bed, and he’s not entirely sure it’s just for show. Slowly and clearly, he says, “If you leave me here like this for much longer, I will fry you to a slimy little puddle of slag, and when I tell the Directorate what happened, they will shake my hand and commend me to the Prime Minister, and the whole of Knapston will throw me a parade.” He lifts his head, lets his mouth pull into a bit of a snarl, and growls, “Don’t. Stop.” 

Bas’s eyes go dark, narrow, and his jaw sets. A small, buzzing assault of nerves slicks through Kimolijah at that look, and he lets his head drop back, swallows, because he has no idea what he’s just let himself in for; he’s not the one in control, after all. 

A small, evil little smile, and Bas does something twisty and wicked with his hips, makes Kimolijah scream so loud his throat almost locks up.  

“A ‘yes’ would’ve done,” Bas slurs.

Kimolijah doesn’t really hear it, what with his blood slamming against his eardrums as it is, thudding through his head and chest, as Bas drives into him so hard Kimolijah has to lock his arms, grip the headboard to keep himself from being rammed right through it. It’s fierce and rough and driving, and it winds everything inside Kimolijah into a thrumming, fiery coil. 

And all right, good, yes, this is good, and maybe Bas handed Kimolijah back that tiny bit of control just when Kimolijah was about to lose it completely, or maybe it was just an accident, but it doesn’t matter, because Kimolijah has himself back now, and he can have that at the same time he has this. It somehow puts the world right, makes this into the everything he’d suspected, instead of the nothing he’d feared. 

It’s like some great weight has been lifted from Kimolijah’s chest, and relief swamps him so he can breathe again. He can feel everything—the sheets clinging to his back and scraping lightly at his skin as Bas drives him up towards the headboard and then pulls him back down; the maddening little breeze over his erection that Bas stirs as he slams his body into Kimolijah’s; the stretch and burn of strained muscle in his arms and shoulders; and for the first time, Kimolijah lets himself feel—really feel—the slick-rough bristle of the silk around his wrists. Maybe he’d been afraid to let himself accept the sensation before, he doesn’t know, but now he revels in it, lets Bas enwind his whole body in a corporeal bond, as silken as the scarf itself, for all that it’s coarse and almost-harsh. 

He relaxes a little, lets go of the headboard, tug-twists his wrists, and he has no idea if he’s trying to get loose or making sure he can’t, and the uncertainty of just that one thing is like a burst of warmth in his chest, chitters white noise through his head, sideswipes him and sends a slurry of buzzing animal want all through him.

Fuck, yes,” Bas breathes, low and shaky, and Kimolijah opens his eyes, tries to focus, sees Bas’s eyes locked to the movement of Kimolijah’s own wrists, watches them flare and widen with each curl of fingers, each pull and twist and quiver. And God, the half-drunk look in Bas’s eyes, like Kimolijah himself is some sort of opiate and Bas can’t help it, can’t help but want him, want him with everything in him and with a ferocity that might be exhilarating or terrifying, it can go either way, and there’s an astounding brilliance in knowing that it won’t. 

Bas flicks a look at Kimolijah, something sharp with little razor-teeth, and Bas smiles a bit, a small, wicked thing, and he drags his fingertips over the bunched muscles of Kimolijah’s forearms, skitters them over the slippery silk of the scarf, and the gasp it draws from Kimolijah makes Bas’s smile curl at the corners, deepen into something murky and intense. Bas’s eyes nearly glaze over, only just bright enough still to gleam dark in the tossing shadows from the fire. A hard, jolting snap of Bas’s hips, and Kimolijah’s whole body arches, a shock of fizzy euphoria arcing out from Bas’s body and into Kimolijah’s like live gridstream, sparking through from the dense core of him and exploding through his chest in a hungry, guttural cry. 

Bas’s hand drags down Kimolijah’s arm, over his chest, and even though Kimolijah knows it’s coming, has been waiting for it for what seems years, he still can’t help but jolt and nearly choke on a gasp when Bas finally lays that hand to him. The touch is firm and hot, and still a little oil-slick; Kimolijah feels like it’s enfolding the whole of him, gripping him together so he doesn’t fly apart. 

It feels like Kimolijah’s been hard forever, like he’s been so close to the edge of orgasm for so long he’s forgotten how to let himself fall over it. Spiraling pressure builds up and up, flares through his limbs, pushes behind his eyes so they burn and sting, and he almost feels like weeping. Right there, and almost but not quite, and it’s like he’s hanging over a chasm by his fingertips, his own weight dragging on his body and stretching him out, tight and taut, and if he just lets go, lets himself drop, and why can’t he just let go? 

He’s vaguely aware of Bas’s free hand tracing up and over his arm, sliding towards his hand, and yes, maybe that’s it, maybe if Bas just touches the silk, burns it into Kimolijah’s skin, Kimolijah will be able to fall and this cruel-sweet ache will coalesce into euphoria before he can lose what’s left of his mind. But Bas doesn’t touch it—he skims right over it, twines his fingers with Kimolijah’s instead, holds on tight. 

“C’mon, love,” he pants. “Do it, let go, I want to feel it.” 

And that’s it, that’s just it, that’s all Kimolijah can take, it all goes splintery and wobbly, and Kimolijah lets go of everything with a throat-ripping scream. He doesn’t hear it, he doesn’t hear anything but the rush of blood pounding through his head. He only feels, so much sensation he really thinks he might die of the overload. And he doesn’t care. Bas is still driving into him, still scraping bliss up Kimolijah’s spine, dragging him through ecstasy like it’s a whole new world and he means to show Kimolijah every last acre of it before he lets him die of rapture. It’s wild and it’s sharp, a raw nerve-ending swaddled in acute pleasure, and Kimolijah writhes, bends and twists, arches so hard he vaguely feels the knobs of his spine popping and cracking in protest before his body locks into an arced bow, every nerve awake and hot, and blinding white light pounding behind his eyes. 

He can’t move, but it doesn’t disturb him like he would have thought it would; his body feels all fizzy-warm, every inch of him aware and wallowing in sensation, shuddering and twitching as something deep within him listens to Bas groaning release, feels the last jerky thrusts of his body against Kimolijah’s, and Kimolijah thinks he smiles. There’s an odd kind of peace in the frothy stillness inside Kimolijah’s head, where the hour is none and nothing else exists in the world but the two of them. 

Kimolijah’s mind has gone blank, everything has gone blank, narrowed down to a pinpoint of warm nothingness, and that’s all right, too, because it’s not a scary nothing; it’s too full of everything to be scary. It could be hours that he floats in this luxurious serene sort of limbo, but he thinks it’s probably only minutes or even seconds, and the next thing he’s aware of is Bas collapsed atop him, panting like a bellows and shaking. Kimolijah wishes he could stroke him, soothe him, run a caress up and down his back; even as he gives his arms a shaky, experimental little tug, he’s surprised to find them lying limp at his sides. He lifts them up, vaguely feeling a slow-sloughing burn work its way from his forearms down to his shoulders and curling around over his back, but that’s for later. He blinks and squints, then stares dumbly at his right arm for a moment, the scarf still wound about loosely and dangling from his wrist, but no longer attached to the headboard. Huh

“Whenna niss—?” Kimolijah realizes he’s mumbling and shuts his mouth, absurdly amused that he’s lost the power of speech. When did this happen? was what he’d meant to ask, but decides he doesn’t really need to know. 

“Mm?” Bas hums back. 

Kimolijah only smiles a little and doesn’t try to repeat the question; it’s really not important. 

Bas takes a long, dragging breath, slowly props himself up on his elbows and peers down at Kimolijah. Kimolijah can’t read Bas’s expression, which is odd—he can usually tell what Bas is thinking just by the sort of smile or frown he’s wearing—but something inexplicable winds through Kimolijah’s gut, lays a tiny shrill of unease over him. 

Don’t make me remember, don’t make what just happened into nothing, and don’t say it’s everything, don’t say it out loud, don’t say it at all, just let it be… 

Bas reaches over, takes up Kimolijah’s left hand, draws it close and inspects his wrist. Kimolijah’s eyes are still a little crossed and blurry, and lighting a lamp was rather low on the priority list when they’d stumbled into the room, so he can’t really see what Bas is looking at, but he’s got a pretty good idea. 

Don’t, don’t, please don’t… 

But Bas only lays a light, feathery kiss to Kimolijah’s wrist, gently thumbs at the whorls of black ink bisected by scars that aren’t old enough yet. Kimolijah can tell the skin is raw and abraded by the small flare of heat from the contact, but he’s paying too much wary attention to what Bas is doing for it to really register. Kimolijah’s holding his breath, tense, and he doesn’t know what he’s expecting, fearing, but it never comes; Bas simply lays Kimolijah’s hand back down to the sheets, draws back up onto his knees and gently prods Kimolijah’s hip. 

“Turn over, I’ll rub your shoulders.” 

Kimolijah didn’t realize it was possible to feel so many emotions within such a short span of time, but it seems like he’s felt everything it’s possible to feel over the past however-long-it’s-been, and yet here’s a new one. He’s not sure what this one is; he thinks it feels a little like gratitude, and he has this odd impulse to thank Bas, but he thinks that might somehow be insulting, so he keeps it in. His mouth is twitching, and he thinks it wants to smile, but if he lets his eyes crinkle, they might start to leak, so he keeps that in, too. He doesn’t really know what to do with himself, so he only does what Bas has asked and turns over. 

It’s wonderful, Bas’s broad hands on him, stroking peace back into Kimolijah’s skin, and drawing serenity up with careful fingers. Just lovely, there’s no better word for it, and Kimolijah relaxes into the soothing touches, lets Bas manipulate strained muscles and coiled tendons from arms to shoulders and on down Kimolijah’s back. It almost seems more intimate than what they’ve just done, the quiet wrapping itself inside him, stilling everything that threatened chaos and taking it down to a low, melodic hum behind his eyes.  

It’s times like these that Kimolijah really and truly understands how much he loves Bas, and that usually scares him so badly that he only looks at it for a second or two before pushing it into his back-brain. Right now, he takes it out, peers at it closely, and decides it’s worth savoring, even if this is the only time he’ll let himself do it. 

“Are you going to want a bath?” Bas asks; his voice is soft but awake and clear. 

Kimolijah almost growls. Because he’s so bloody exhausted he doesn’t know if he’ll ever move again. 

“Mmrph,” he replies. Let Bas make of it what he will; Kimolijah will go along with it, whatever it is. 

Bas snorts a little. “Well, since you always want a bath, I’ll take that as a yes.” 

And that’s just… it’s just right, so quietly right that Kimolijah squeezes his eyes shut tight, sucks in a shaky breath, and what is all this, anyway? When did he become this raw disarray of emotional penury? 

“Not yet,” Kimolijah whispers, “don’t go yet,” and he doesn’t even care that he’s apparently not done with the needy begging thing yet. 

Bas only stretches out alongside him, slides a knee over Kimolijah’s thighs and keeps one hand moving up and down Kimolijah’s spine. “Later,” Bas agrees. “I’ll put some coppers up and get you something for your throat, shall I? Sounds a little sore.” 

That makes Kimolijah smile, small and wobbly, because that’s right, too, Bas mother-henning, and a little piece of Kimolijah’s world clicks back into place. His throat is sore and just as sensitive as everything else seems to be, and it keeps accumulating these mystifying lumps that Kimolijah has to swallow down or breathe around, and both are getting more and more difficult. For all that tonight has been astonishing and revelatory, he’ll be just as happy when it’s over and he can tuck his emotions back inside where they belong, instead of having them dripping out of him like this and him not able to stop the flow. 

Kimolijah takes a deep breath that’s a little more steady than the last had been, ventures, “I see my nefarious scheme is working, then,” and sighs a little when it comes out slightly mumbled and slurred, but clear enough. 

Bas’s hand pauses for a moment. Kimolijah can’t see him, can’t see anything but the insides of his eyelids, but he knows Bas’s eyebrows have gone up and one corner of his mouth is quirked. 

“And which scheme is that? There are so many, after all.” 

Kimolijah stretches, rolls his shoulders beneath Bas’s hand; Bas takes the hint and resumes kneading at them. “The one where I get you to shag me witless and then coddle me until I can move and think again.” 

“Ah,” Bas says. “And did this scheme entail tea or port for your throat?” 

“Um…” Kimolijah frowns. “That’s… sort of an odd choice, isn’t it?” He grunts a bit when Bas’s hand cups the entirety of his right shoulder blade and digs into the muscle. 

“When I was a boy,” Bas tells him, “Mam always insisted that tea with honey and lemon and a touch of freesia would cure anything from a runny nose to the loss of a limb.” 

Kimolijah smiles, relieved that it doesn’t feel so shaky anymore. “’S nice,” he mumbles. 

“But Gran used to sneak me a glass of port after Mam had gone off. Told me that even if it didn’t cure whatever was ailing me, at least it would make me feel like it had.” 

Kimolijah chuckles at that one. “And did it?” 

“Oh, yes,” Bas answers, the smile plain in his voice. “I was—what?—five or so, I imagine, when Gran started sotting me with the stuff, and it always did go straight to my head.” 

“Still does,” Kimolijah observes wryly. 

“Fuck off,” Bas retorts, easy and amused. “Anyway, I never was quite sure which did the job, the tea or the port, so you’ll have to tell me which.” He burrows in a little tighter, mouth resting warm against Kimolijah’s shoulder. “When I get up, that is. Which is not right now.” 

Pillow talk. That’s all.

No are you all right? No did it remind you? No are you over it, finally, can you live now, can you be a whole person, can you forget, should you?


Kimolijah is so relieved that they are decidedly Not Talking About It that he feels a sudden and irresistible urge to let Bas know how grateful he is. With some effort, Kimolijah turns his head, lays a kiss to Bas’s hair before sinking like a stone back into the pillows; it’s perhaps a smallish token, but it’s all he can manage right now. Bas’s hand sweeps over to Kimolijah’s arm, gives it a light squeeze in acknowledgement before sliding down to stroke firmly over ribcage then backbone. 

“You decide,” Kimolijah eventually answers, exhaustion thickening his tongue, spiraling behind his eyes and pulling heavily at his body. Sleep is rolling right over him and he doesn’t have the inclination to resist it at the moment, so he just sighs out a long breath, smiles a little. “I trust you,” he slurs into the pillow, then gives in and dozes.



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