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AND THEN THERE'S UST AND PINING
Creep In Like a Whisper 
7th-Oct-2009 08:35 pm
writing
Creep In Like a Whisper
Pairing(s): Frank/Gerard
Rating: R
Warnings: Slavefic, attempted sexual assault, frequent mention of past physical and sexual abuse.
Word Count: 15,175
Prompt: 403: Gerard and Mikey are wealthy land-owners, and Frank is a newly-attained slave with trust issues. They show him they're not like typical masters.
Author's Notes: Written for bandom_hc. Thanks to shoemaster and cool_rain_kiss for betaing!


Like many slaves, Frank has no memory of a life without slavery; he had either been born into captivity or taken in early childhood. His earliest memories are of the slave quarters in the first household he served in and the woman who looked after him, who may have been his mother. She was sold away when he was very young, and he can't remember ever speaking to her, but she always made certain he had his share of food and clothing and a clean, dry place to sleep. Once she was gone, he'd had to learn to fend for himself.

He doesn't know for certain how old he is (his guess is about twenty, but it could be more or less), so he doesn't know how old he was when they took him from his duties as a household slave and brought him to the master's bedroom. Old enough to realize quickly what was expected of him, but young enough that he likely couldn't have fought against it even if he'd dared to. It had been frightening at first, and painful, but no worse than the times he'd been beaten for mistakes or disobedience. It had gotten better as he'd become used to it, and in fact that first master had treated him well, even doted on him--for as long as Frank had held his interest. As Frank had grown older, that interest had waned.

Those who became pleasure slaves rarely returned to the type of work they had done before; once they had been brought into their masters' beds, they were considered fit for little else but to continue serving there. So if a master tired of a pleasure slave, there was little to do but sell them, either to a brothel, or to another master, one who didn't mind used goods.

Frank considered himself lucky to avoid the brothels at first. That was before he discovered that his new master was not like his old one. Frank had known from the stories other slaves told that there were some slave owners who took their pleasure from causing pain, but in his first household, with a master who had treated him like a favorite pet, he had had no firsthand knowledge of it. Three years with his new master had changed that.

There had been times in those three years when death had seemed preferable to what his life had become, and in the end, it was death that delivered him--but not his own.

Now back in the slave market for a second time--sold by his master's children to pay off debts--Frank considers his situation. The brothels seem an even more likely fate this time, but the idea of them doesn't hold the same dread it once did. He doubts whatever happens to him now will be worse than what he's already survived. So when the elderly gentleman comes to look at him, Frank is wary but calm.

The gentleman examines him in an impersonal, businesslike fashion, nodding in satisfaction at some things, frowning slightly at others. Considering what he's gone through in the past few years, Frank's in good shape--as vicious as he was, his last master had had no desire to break his favorite toy, and there was always a medic in the house to tend to Frank when he needed it. But there are still a few faint scars, streaked across his back or curling around his sides, and he knows that makes him worth less than if he were unmarked. It seems they aren't enough to deter the gentleman's interest, though, because he speaks to the trader a bit and then, unexpectedly, addresses Frank himself.

"Can you read, boy?"

"Yes, sir," Frank answers promptly, keeping his eyes lowered. His first master had taught him, having liked to have Frank read aloud to him sometimes. His second had kept a small library and hadn't cared what Frank did while he was away, so books had become one of the few forms of solace Frank had.

"Do you have any other education?"

"I can write a bit, and I know some history and mathematics," Frank tells him.

The gentleman makes a considering noise and turns back to the slave trader. A few more words are exchanged, and then coins. The heavy iron collar they put on Frank when he was brought back here is changed for a lighter, more delicate one--leather, supple but strong, with a family crest branded into it--and he follows his new master out to a waiting carriage.

They only travel a short distance, to a nearby inn, where Frank follows the gentleman into a large, comfortably appointed suite.

There's another man waiting there, a little older than Frank and much taller than him, with frizzy, reddish hair. He stands instantly when the gentleman enters the room, hands clasped behind his back, eyes lowered slightly, and Frank doesn't need to see the collar around his neck to know he's a slave as well.

"Get him cleaned up and find him something decent to wear," the gentleman says, as brisk and businesslike as he'd been in the market. "I have some other business to attend to, but I want to see him when I get back."

"Yes, sir," the tall man says with a nod, and then gestures for Frank to follow him.

The bath he leads Frank into seems like paradise after the cramped, dirty stalls of the market, and wary as he is, Frank looks forward to being able to strip off the rags they'd clothed him in there.

"Everything you need should be laid out," the tall man says. "I'll go and find you something to wear."

"Wait," Frank says as he starts to withdraw, and the man turns back toward him, eyebrows raised questioningly. "Can I ask--what's he like?"

"Our master?" the man confirms, and shrugs. "Better than some and worse than others, I suppose. He can be stern when he's displeased, but he's not cruel. I wouldn't worry if I were you, though--you'll be with Gerard once we get home, and he's a good one."

"Gerard?" Frank echoes curiously.

"The master's nephew," the man explains.

"Oh," Frank says, as he realizes what that means. "Oh, I see."

The tall man gives him a sympathetic smile, a we're-in-this-together look. "I'm Ray. Let me know if you need anything, and I'll see what I can do."

"Thank you," Frank says, managing a faint smile in return. "I'm Frank."

Ray nods to him and then leaves, and Frank doesn't hesitate to shed his clothing and slide gratefully into the warm water, putting everything else out of his mind for now.




By noon the next day, Frank's back in the carriage and traveling towards his new household, his master dozing in the seat across from him and Ray sitting up front with the driver. There are curtains drawn over the carriage windows, but every now and then Frank dares to lift a corner and peer out at the passing countryside.

The night before, he'd stood before his new master again, clean for what felt like the first time in years and dressed in the nondescript shirt and trousers Ray brought him, and learned a little more about the nephew he's to be a present for.

"My nephew is a sensitive boy," his master had explained. "Intelligent, though he spends too much time buried in his books for my liking. Frankly, I think a good tumble would do him a world of good, but that's not all he needs--he needs a companion, someone he can talk to. And he doesn't seem inclined to go out and find any such companion on his own, so we'll see how he takes to you." He'd paused, looking Frank up and down, and added, "And considering what I paid for you, I hope he will."

Now, Frank peers out from behind the curtain again, in time to see the carriage pass through the gates of a sprawling estate. There are fields to one side of the road, a few slaves at work in them, and up ahead, a massive house. As they draw near, Frank glances at his master, wondering if he should presume to wake him. He's spared the decision when the carriage stops and Ray climbs down, rapping loudly on the door.

Once up the wide marble steps and through the polished wood doors, Frank's instructed to wait in an elegant antechamber. He's still there an hour later, when Ray comes to find him.

"Gerard's not at home," he says. "And the master's leaving again soon, for some time, so he likely won't be here when Gerard returns. You're to give him this."

He hands Frank a folded letter, which Frank tucks carefully into a pocket. Ray leaves him again shortly after that, having much to attend to, and Frank waits some more, sitting straight-backed and quiet on an elegantly carved wooden bench, glancing now and then through the open archway into the main hall. There's a slight bustle when the master leaves again, but no one approaches Frank or speaks to him--Ray only glances over at him and gives a brief nod, which Frank returns.

It's perhaps another two hours before the door opens. Two men walk in, both dark-haired and with the look of gentlemen, talking in low voices. Ray comes out to the front hall to greet them.

"Gerard, Michael," he says, bowing and taking their coats. "Dinner will be ready soon. And your uncle's been called away on business; he'll be gone for some time."

The two man exchange a look at that, and the one who seems to be older looks back at Ray, asking, "Did he say how long he'll be gone?"

"Several days at least," Ray answers. "Perhaps a week."

"I think I'll take dinner in my study, then, if it's not too much trouble," the man says. "I have work to do."

"No trouble at all, of course." Ray glances over and gestures to Frank, who stands and walks forward. "But there's something you should know."

Both gentlemen turn toward Frank as he approaches, questioning looks on their faces. Frank darts a glance at Ray, who nods toward the older one. Assuming that means he's Gerard, Frank moves to stand in front of him, bowing and presenting the letter.

Frank keeps his head lowered, as is proper, but he can't resist looking up as stealthily as he can manage. Gerard is far younger than Frank's previous two masters--perhaps not more than five years older than Frank himself--and more pleasing to look at, pale and dark-haired, with an odd but pretty face. At first, his brow is furrowed as he reads the letter, but then his eyes widen in a look of surprise.

"Oh," he says after a moment. "I see."

The other man--Michael--comes closer, peers over his brother's shoulder, raises one eyebrow, and then turns quickly towards Ray.

"I believe you said something about dinner?" he asks. Ray nods, and the two of them depart, leaving Frank and Gerard standing alone in the front hall.

"Well," Gerard says. "Well, I suppose...what's your name?"

"Frank, sir," Frank answers promptly.

"Well, Frank, I suppose you'd better come with me."

Gerard doesn't talk like any slave owner who's ever spoken to Frank before. He doesn't have the inherent self-assurance, the tone that says he expects his word to be obeyed because that's the way things are. He sounds unsure, hesitant.

Frank follows him through the house, every room they pass through as grand and elegant as those he's seen already. Gerard leads him up a staircase and down a hallway, and into a bedroom that's spacious and well-appointed like the rest of the house, but far less tidy. There are two doorways branching off from the main room; through one, Frank can see the tiled floor of what looks like a private bath, and through the other, what seems to be a study.

"Are you hungry?" Gerard asks, and Frank nods. "I'll go speak to Ray, then. He'll bring you something."

The idea of his master performing a service like that for him, rather than the other way around, is so strange to Frank that he can't keep from speaking up unbidden. "I could go, sir, if you'd like."

"Oh, no--thank you, but I'd just as soon go myself," Gerard says. "There were some things I wanted to speak to him about, anyway."

Before Frank can even think of saying anything else, Gerard is gone, leaving him alone in the bedroom.

A short while later, Ray arrives, bearing a tray.

"Gerard's gone to the library," he informs Frank. "From the look of things, he may be there until quite late."

Frank eats the food Ray leaves with him (which is excellent, though it wouldn't be hard for anything to surpass his last few meals), and sits alone in Gerard's room, looking around but not touching anything.

He's not sure what to make of Gerard, in part because he has yet to spend more than five minutes in the man's presence. He seems kind, but also aloof and diffident, or perhaps simply shy, given the way he spoke to Frank.

He also doesn't seem particularly pleased by Frank's presence, and Frank's not sure what to make of that, either. In one way it's a relief--when he presented himself to Gerard, he'd been braced for the worst, and instead he's been shown to a comfortable room, fed, and left alone. But if Gerard's uncle comes home to find that his nephew has no interest in Frank, what will happen then?

He sits on the edge of Gerard's bed, which is as messy as the rest of the room, coverlet thrown back and sheets rumpled. He hasn't been here long enough yet to make any predictions about the future, he reminds himself. All he can do right now is wait for Gerard to return from the library and see what happens then.




Frank doesn't mean to fall asleep, but some time later he wakes stretched out on the bed. There's low light and the sounds of movement coming in from the study, and a moment later Gerard comes into the bedroom, carrying a few books in his arms. Frank scrambles to his feet at once, and Gerard looks over at him, as if just noticing his presence.

"I'm sorry," he says. "I didn't mean to wake you."

"I didn't mean to fall asleep," Frank says quickly, and then bites his lip, ready to face Gerard's displeasure if he's incurred it.

"Well, it is rather late," Gerard says, with no trace of anger in his voice. He pauses, then sets his books down on a table against the wall. "I did want to speak to you, though, so it's just as well you're awake now."

Frank nods attentively, waiting for him to go on.

"You may have already realized that I tend to be quite busy with my studies," Gerard continues. "So you'll be left to your own devices much of the time, and I want you to know you should feel free to do as you please. The only thing I'd ask is that you not enter my study while I'm not there."

"Yes, sir," Frank replies.

"And you needn't call me that," Gerard adds. "Gerard will do."

"As you wish," Frank says. The thought of addressing his master by his given name is strange, but who is he to question Gerard's preferences?

"All right," Gerard says, and gives a faint smile before turning to pick up his books. "I should get back to work. Go back to sleep if you like; Ray will wake you for breakfast in the morning."




Ray does, but instead of bringing a tray, he invites Frank to have breakfast with him in his quarters. Rather than continue to sit alone in Gerard's room, Frank accepts, and over the meal he describes his late-night encounter with Gerard.

"He's like that sometimes," Ray says. "Particularly when his uncle's away. You likely won't see much of him for the next few days."

Frank nods. It won't be the first time he's been left alone for that long a time. In his last household, it had always been a mixed blessing, welcome respite from his master's cruelty balanced against anticipation of the inevitable moment when his attention would turn toward Frank again. Here, with his uncertainty about what the future holds, perhaps it won't be so bad to have a few days to find his footing, see what else he can learn about Gerard.

"I'd offer to show you more of the house, but I have work to do," Ray tells him. "You could accompany me if you wanted, though, and see some of it that way."

For the rest of the day, Frank shadows Ray as he performs his duties, which seem to cover most of the running of the estate. He looks over the work being done around the house--in the case of more experienced slaves, the inspection seems cursory, but Frank sees him take some younger ones aside and correct them, gently and without anger.

Frank finds himself the subject of more than a few curious glances and wonders if the others know why he's here, and if so, what they think of him. In his first household, the other slaves' opinions of him had ranged from scorn for the type of service he provided to envy for the easy life that came with it (or so they saw it; Frank could have told them it wasn't so easy, but he could understand how slaves who spent their days in hard labor and their nights in cramped, uncomfortable quarters might resent the luxury pleasure slaves often lived in, whatever cost it came at). In his second household, there had been mainly pity--everyone there knew that those their master's eye fell on were not to be envied.

In the afternoon, Ray goes out to check on the slaves working in the fields. He speaks to the overseers assigned to different groups, questioning them about how well the slaves have been working, but also about how they've been treated, how hard they've been pushed, if they've been given rest and water when they should. At one point, when a particular overseer's answer doesn't seem to satisfy him, Ray calls a slave away from his work, a solidly-built man he calls Bryar, and asks him for confirmation.

It's common sense--slaves who are kept healthy and not given more reason than they already have to resent their masters do better work--but even so, it's a level of regard that's not always shown. And though Ray is a slave himself, no one questions his authority, and it's clear that he speaks for their master in his absence.

"How long have you been here?" Frank asks as they're walking back to the house.

"Fifteen years," Ray replies. "I've been supervising the others for five; before that, I was a house slave."

"You've known Gerard a long time, then," Frank says.

Ray nods. "Him and Michael both. They're good men." He glances over at Frank, one eyebrow raised slightly. "Any particular reason you ask?"

Frank glances downward, keeping his eyes on his feet as they walk. "Just trying to get more of a feel for what Gerard's like."

"Well, he's devoted to his brother," Ray says. "They've always been very close. And you've seen the way he is when he's working on something. He's even-tempered most of the time, but he can be irritable if anything interferes with his work."

Frank's curious about what the work that keeps Gerard so busy is, but it's not his place to ask, and wouldn't be Ray's place to tell him, anyway.




Gerard's room is empty when Frank returns to it that night, and Frank finds himself not wanting to go to sleep in Gerard's bed, unsure as he still is over whether or not Gerard wants him there. There's a small settee under the window, so he lies down there instead; he has to draw his knees up a little to fit, but it's far from the most uncomfortable place he's ever slept.

He wakes up instantly when he feels a light touch on his shoulder, but lies still and keeps his eyes mostly closed, just barely peering out from under his lashes. Gerard is leaning over him, his expression impossible to make out in the dark. He moves after a moment, and Frank holds himself still, waiting, but Gerard only drapes a blanket over his shoulders before turning and walking back toward the bed.

Frank lies awake a while longer, listening as Gerard's breathing deepens and evens out. Eventually, he turns over, tugs the blanket more securely around his shoulders, and closes his eyes.

When he wakes up in the morning, Gerard is already gone.




Frank spends much of the next day alone, not wanting to bother Ray while he's working (although Ray hadn't seemed particularly bothered the day before, and it was good to have someone in the house to talk to, but that makes it all the more important for Frank to not wear out his welcome). He's a little nervous about wandering the house on his own, but Gerard did tell him he should do as he pleased, and didn't tell him not to go anywhere besides his study.

He spends some of the morning in a gallery he and Ray had passed through the day before, studying the paintings and sculptures that line the room, but being careful not to touch anything. A household slave comes in to dust while he's there, and she and Frank exchange a nod, but don't speak to one another. After a while, Frank wanders back downstairs and out onto the grounds, finding a small walled garden. It's cool and shady, the stone walls covered in thick vines, and it's far enough from the fields that he can't hear the slaves working in them. Frank has no doubt that's intentional, just as he has no doubt that if he were anyone but a slave himself, the girl from the gallery would have waited until he was gone before going in.

When Frank goes back inside, he goes looking for the library, which Ray had pointed out as they passed it the day before. He finds it easily enough, but when he tries the door, it's locked. Frank is about to walk away when the door suddenly opens, and Gerard sticks his head out.

"Ray? We'll be done soon, if you need me for anything--oh." He breaks off as he notices Frank standing there, and there's an instant change in his demeanor, his posture stiffening and his expression closing off.

"I didn't mean to disturb you," Frank says quickly, clasping his hands behind his back and looking down.

"It's fine," Gerard says. "Do you need something?"

Frank shakes his head. "I was just going to look through the library, if that's all right."

"Perfectly all right," Gerard assures him. "But perhaps not just now--Michael and I are meeting with some people." He pauses, then adds, "If you'd like, I could show you around later? Perhaps after dinner?"

Frank's a little surprised by the offer--the first time Gerard's proposed to spend any amount of time with him. He also remembers what Gerard's uncle said about wanting his nephew to have a companion, someone he could talk to. If Gerard's willing to take time away from his work to show Frank his library, perhaps that's a start.

"If you like," he says, and risks a glance upwards. Gerard's expression is still hard to read, but he nods.

"Very well," he says. "If you'll excuse me, I should get back. I'll see you later."

"Of course," Frank says, dropping his gaze again and stepping back.




Gerard makes good on his word, finding Frank in his room that evening. Frank stays a few steps behind Gerard as they walk back to the library together, responding promptly to Gerard's comments or questions but not speaking otherwise.

"So, I take it you can read?" Gerard asks, glancing over his shoulder, and Frank nods. "Are there any particular sorts of books you like?"

"Nothing in particular," Frank says, opting not to explain that the only books he's had access to in the past were those kept by his previous masters, which didn't leave him with a wide enough selection to be choosy. "There are all sorts of subjects I find interesting."

They reach the library as he's speaking, and Gerard smiles wryly as he pushes the door open. "Well, whatever you're interested in, you ought to be able to find it in here. I come from a long line of book collectors."

The library he leads Frank into is easily the largest Frank's ever been in, bookshelves stretching high over his and Gerard's heads. He glances around, not knowing where to begin now that he's here.

"There's a system to the way they're organized," Gerard says, seeming to sense that Frank's at a bit of a loss. "Would you like me to show you?"

An hour later, Frank has a small pile of books to read, and Gerard's lost a little of the stiffness he's had around Frank so far. Only a little, though--he keeps a fair amount of distance between them and rarely looks at Frank. The most telling moment, however, comes when he holds out a book to Frank, and their hands touch as Frank takes it. Gerard snatches his hand away quickly, and Frank looks down, curling his arms around the books he holds.

"You can come here whenever you like, as long as the door isn't locked," Gerard tells him, as if the previous moment hadn't happened. "And read whatever you like, though I would prefer you put everything back where you found it."

"Of course," Frank says, nodding. "Thank you."




Frank spends the night on the settee again, Gerard (unsurprisingly) still in the library when Frank goes to sleep, and out of the house by the time he wakes up. He spends the day alone again, reading and thinking over their interaction the day before. Gerard had seemed eager to show him the library, even pleased at his interest in it, but he'd still given every indication that he didn't want to touch Frank or even get too close to him.

Frank could go on turning this over in his mind, but the fact of the matter is that he still doesn't know Gerard well enough to know for sure what any of it means. And there's only one person he can think to turn to for help figuring things out.

When he reaches Ray's room, Frank's reasonably certain Ray's not working even before he knocks because he can hear music coming from behind the closed door. When Ray answers the knock, Frank can see a guitar lying on the bed behind him.

"I'm not bothering you, am I?" Frank asks.

"Not at all," Ray says. "Come in."

Ray sits back down on the bed, moving the guitar aside, and Frank takes the chair in front of the desk.

"I was wondering if I could ask your advice about something," Frank begins. "It's...a little awkward."

"I'm guessing it has something to do with Gerard?" Ray asks, and Frank nods. "I don't know how much help I can be, but go on."

Frank pauses, not knowing how to ask, now that he's here, and then opts for directness. "You know why I'm here. What I am. I'm not proud of it, but there's no point in dancing around it."

Ray nods. "I do."

"And you know what it's been like between me and Gerard so far," Frank goes on. "I've seen more of you than I have of him, and say what you will about him being devoted to his work, I doubt he'd be staying away from his own room this much if I weren't there."

Ray seems to hesitate a moment, but then nods again. "Very well, I can't deny that."

"So what if he decides he'd rather I wasn't here at all?" Frank asks. "Or what if his uncle comes home and decides he didn't pay good money for a slave his nephew mainly seems interested in avoiding?" Frank looks down at his hands, clasped in his lap. "I know I haven't been here very long, but so far, I prefer it to the market."

Ray stands, pacing back and forth a bit. "I can see why you're concerned," he says, "but for what it's worth, I don't think you need to worry about going back to the market."

He says it with confidence, and Frank wants to be reassured, but Ray's words aren't enough to set him at ease.

"You sound very sure of that," he says.

"I can't speak for Gerard," Ray says. "But things may not be the way they seem right now. It takes time for him to open up to people, but he may surprise you when he does."

It's difficult to imagine Gerard opening up to him based on what he's seen so far, but Frank reminds himself that Ray's known Gerard much longer than he has.

"All right," he says, nodding. "I'll wait and see what happens. Thank you."

Ray smiles, touching his shoulder lightly. "Like I said, if you need anything, I'll help if I can."




Frank spends the rest of the day thinking about what Ray said and reconsidering his interactions with Gerard. In the end, the only conclusion he can reach is that he needs to try and figure Gerard out. He needs to know if the way Gerard's behaved around him is due to lack of interest, or the shyness he was warned about, or something else. It may mean facing his displeasure, but Frank's prepared to risk that--as far as he can tell, Gerard seems kind and gentle, and if there's a harder side to him Frank hasn't seen yet, better to find out now than later.

When he goes back to the library the next day, Frank isn't counting on putting his plan into action then and there. But Gerard is there when he goes in, curled up on a settee by the fireplace with a book in his lap. He glances up as Frank enters, and Frank hesitates, but Gerard smiles encouragingly.

"I'm not bothering you, am I?" Frank asks.

Gerard shakes his head. "Anytime as long as the door's not locked, remember?" He gestures to the book in his lap, adding, "This isn't work."

Frank smiles and moves over to one of the bookshelves. He browses the titles for a few moments, but his attention's not on the words in front of him, and when he finally chooses a book, it's at random. He hesitates another moment, then walks across the room and sits down the settee, a short distance away from Gerard.

Gerard looks up, seeming faintly surprised. There are a number of other seats in the room, so perhaps it seems strange that Frank would choose to sit next to him.

"I wanted to thank you again," Frank says. "For showing me around the other day."

"Don't mention it," Gerard replies. He closes the book he's been reading, looking down at the cover for a moment. "I've actually been meaning to say--I don't know what sort of education you've had, aside from reading..." He pauses and glances at Frank, who shakes his head.

"Not much. Mainly what I've picked up from books I've read."

"Well, I don't know if you'd be interested in any further education," Gerard goes on, "but if you were, I'd be glad to help you any way I could."

The offer surprises Frank, as Gerard's offer to show him the library had, but he responds automatically, smiling. "I'd like that. Thank you."

Gerard gives a faint smile. "I believe everyone should have the chance at an education, if they want it," he says. "And I've been tutoring some of the others here for a while now, so I have some idea of what I'm doing."

There's an earnestness in his voice and an expression that Frank can't help but believe, and he's touched by it. But he hasn't forgotten why he's here.

"That's very kind of you," he says, still smiling. "Not many would show their slaves that kind of consideration."

Gerard lifts one shoulder in a shrug. "It's worth doing. And I enjoy it."

Frank shifts a bit closer, looking up at him. "Perhaps there's something I can do for you, as well," he says in a low voice.

Gerard looks at Frank, seeming almost taken aback. After a moment, he shakes his head. "Frank, that's not--you don't have to do anything."

"But I could," Frank presses, moving closer still. "If you wanted."

Gerard's eyes widen a little as Frank moves closer, but he doesn't pull away. "I mean it," he says softly. "You don't have to do this."

"It's all right," Frank says, looking up at him. "This is why I'm here."

At that, Gerard's expression darkens somewhat. "You're here because my uncle doesn't know me nearly as well as he imagines he does."

Frank moves back a little, looking down. At least, he thinks, that settles the question of whether or not Gerard wants him.

A moment later, however, Gerard's fingers brush his face. He strokes Frank's cheek for a moment and tilts his chin up gently, and the look in his eyes is far from what Frank expected to see.

"You're very beautiful, Frank," Gerard whispers. "But I don't--I could never make you do anything--"

He breaks off awkwardly, and at last, Frank thinks he understands.

He moves in close again, pushing into Gerard's touch. Gerard's face is a picture of uncertainty, but his hand moves, cupping Frank's cheek and then sliding around and back, fingers creeping up into his hair.

"Who says you'd have to make me?" Frank asks softly, turning his face up towards Gerard's in a clear invitation.

Gerard holds himself still, his lips pressed together tightly, but there's desire in his eyes, Frank can see it now. He knows how to manipulate desire, how to take the knowledge that someone wants him and use it to earn a reward or stave off a punishment. Gerard's holding himself back, but all Frank has to do is convince him to take what he wants, and then Gerard will be pleased, and his uncle will be pleased, and then Frank will be able to stay here.

He turns to the side a bit, angling his body closer to Gerard's, and raises one hand, touching his face gently. Gerard draws in a quick breath at that, as if startled. His lips part, and Frank traces his fingers across them, looking up to meet Gerard's eyes.

"It's all right," he whispers. "I promise, it's all right."

Gerard's mouth covers his before he's even finished speaking, hard and hot and just a little clumsy. Frank lets his mouth fall open under Gerard's, tilting his head until they fit just right, and Gerard kisses him again and again, one hand tangling in Frank's hair and the other trailing down his spine to the small of his back. Frank goes willingly when Gerard pulls him close, running his hands across Gerard's shoulders and over his chest, and then Gerard is easing him back, pressing him down on the settee.

Frank reaches up to cup Gerard's face in his hands, guiding Gerard's mouth back to his and parting his lips when Gerard's tongue touches them. He's ready to let Gerard take whatever he wants, do whatever Gerard asks of him, and it's no longer simply a slave acknowledging his master's right--it's fire under Frank's skin and his pulse pounding in his ears, like nothing he's ever felt before.

It's the last thing he expects when Gerard suddenly pushes himself up, breaking the kiss with a ragged gasp. He looks down at Frank, seeming dazed, almost drunk, and then his eyes clear a little and he shakes his head.

"I can't," he says in a breathless rush, touching Frank's face for a brief moment before he pulls away, staggering to his feet. "I'm sorry, I can't--"

He turns away, and before Frank can say anything, or do anything besides stare in dumbfounded silence, Gerard is gone from the room.

Part Two
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