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Author's Chapter Notes:
Warnings: Angst, promiscuity, 1977. Very cranky accountants hither and yon.

The first time he went out *ALONE*, without James, was All Hallow's Eve. James didn't mind that -- there were other nights he went out alone, as well, leaving James behind to work and rework figures, trying to bring their debts and accounts up to snuff.

That was the night James discovered that there was a difference between going out *alone* and going out *ALONE*.

"I'll be back late, Jamesie, so don't wait up." The words were tossed at him casually as Dorian peered into the mirror, adjusting a gleaming gold and cobalt earring. Everything he wore was skin tight, the fabric over his chest a kind of black mesh and nearly invisible, leaving sculpted chest muscles and slightly erect nipples in full view.

"But I always wait up!" James blurted, looking at him with wide eyes. "Don't you think you should put on something more nondescript? I mean...?"

"It's a *party,* Jamesie," Dorian replied, using a long, golden finger to bring down the curl for the middle of his forehead. "I told you about Hennings's friends. They make me look downright prudish. So I *have* to dress this way or else I'll stand out."

"Well..." Oh, how reluctant he was to let Dorian go out looking like *
THAT*! *Alone*!!!! "If it means we'll get more money. We're almost out of the hole now..."

"Marvelous, dear!" Dorian said, giving his hair a little ruffle. "You're *such* a genius at numbers. I'll take great care tonight to make note of the most expensive pieces. Do I look all right?" He said this last bit as he turned completely, enjoying the feel of James's eyes on him.

A lust-filled little sigh positively *leaked* from his adorable Scottish accountant. "You look as though I'd lay down and beg you to walk all over me," James answered breathlessly.

"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" Dorian sighed before leaning down and giving the smaller man a long, lingering kiss. "I'll see you in the morning," he murmured in a low voice, and then turned and walked from the room, waving a hand over his shoulder as he did.

By the time Dorian arrived, the affair was in full swing, and there was more than just liquor being passed around amongst the party-goers. It was really no surprise to him -- it was the late seventies, after all, and what party *didn't* have more than alcohol running rampant at the thing?

He spotted his target from across the room. An older man was threatening to scoop the poor little dear up and carry him off, so Dorian moved quickly.

"Jeffry! So glad to find you in all these people!"

"Oh, *Dorian*!" The boy was adorable, small, blond, pretty, with green eyes -- just the way Dorian liked them. Well, actually, he was particularly fond of any small pretty thing, and even a few large pretty things, now that he thought about it. "I was hoping you'd get here soon!"

"Care to come away to a quiet corner and... chat?" Dorian asked, holding up his elbow and secretly gloating about the reaction of the older man.

"I'd *love* to, you darling man," the relieved reply came, Jeffry slipping an arm about Dorian's waist. "Ta, darling. So sorry I couldn't stay longer, you know."

Dorian gave the old geezer a wink over his shoulder and then squired Jeffry to a deserted sitting room.

"So, dear boy," he said softly, advancing enough so that his prey had to back up towards the sofa. "Have you been thinking about me? Hmm? I know I have trouble concentrating on anything else but you for the last few days..."

"Thinking, wishing, dreaming, scrawling little love notes and scribbles of you naked," the other man nearly hummed. Jeffry was a *fine* forger, and he was only going to get better with time. Dorian hadn't *exactly* lied when he'd told James he was going out on business...


A step closer, so that Jeffry's legs brushed the back of the fine brocade. "I'm *very* glad to hear that," Dorian murmured. "Especially because you haven't *seen* me naked yet, and still you were drawing me. Can I conclude that your artistic endeavors are a sign that you might enjoy seeing me without my clothes on?"

"Mmmmhmmmmm," Jeffry agreed in a near purr, green eyes narrowing in a smile. "My, yes. I think seeing you naked would be..." The breathless quality of his voice increased. "Just *maddeningly* wonderful."

"Well, perhaps that can be arranged for later this evening," Dorian said, stepping even closer so that Jeffry fell to the sofa. "Right *now* however..." He leaned forward, bringing his knee down to the sofa, and grazed the boy's lips. "I really *must* insist on kissing you..."

"Oh, insist away," the blond boy sighed, eyes closing, lips parting most willingly. He moaned when Dorian took his mouth and his arms slipped up around the taller man's shoulders, shivering with the pleasure of it. "Hmmmmm!"

"Such a pretty little thing," Dorian murmured against the boy's mouth. "I can't wait to get you home..."

When the door came open, James jerked his head up from where it had fallen to lay upon his ledger, little creases on his cheek from the small spiral bindings of the things. "M'lord?" he murmured sleepily, reaching up to rub at his eyes sleepily.

"James, I *told* you not to stay up," Dorian scolded mildly. "Now run off up to bed."

"But m'lord," James began before movement in the doorway drew his attention and caused his eyes to widen.

"How sweet. So this is your little accountant, hm?" Jeffry asked, smiling with a fair amount of friendliness at James.

"Yes," Dorian said, rolling his eyes. "Jeffry, this is James. James this is Jeffry. Now please, James, go to bed. It's quite late. I'll see you in the morning, all right?"

"But..." James began tentatively, "I thought..." Well. He'd thought that perhaps tonight would be like other nights, that Dorian would come home and go to bed with *him*, except that there was this *person* present...

"Jeffry and I have a lot to discuss," Dorian said, trying to be patient. "Now *please*, James, go to *bed.*" He gave his friend as much of a 'look' as he could and still appear pleasant.

Ohhh, James didn't like it, not at *all*, but... "Yes, m'lord," he answered a little sullenly, rubbing his eyes one more time before reluctantly rising and heading for the back of the small apartment he and Dorian had been keeping. He paused near the door and looked back, hopeful of being called to return, but... there was no deliciously deep golden voice to call to him, and so he trudged pitifully into the darkness to go to bed.

"My," Jeffry said, eyes wide. "Jealous, are we?"

"I don't know why he should be," Dorian smiled, gliding over to the small liquor cabinet and pouring out two glasses of cognac. "It's not like we've ever been exclusive to each other." He handed Jeffry a glass and murmured, "So, shall I show you what I have to offer you in fringe benefits if you choose to stay...?"

"Mmmm, I think... yes," Jeffry agreed, his free arm curling up and around Dorian's neck, pulling him down to kiss him sweetly. "Do show me, dear man..."

Dorian wrapped his arms around the boy, letting his hands trail down to squeeze tight little buttocks while his mouth took Jeffry's in a slow, smoldering kiss. "Mmm... you're such a delight..." he murmured. "I think we'd be an excellent team."

"Ohh, yes," Jeffry whispered, lashes dropping slowly as he gave in to the other man. "I do believe that we will."

Morning dawned bright, early, and with the sound of James's startled gasp.

It was truly no wonder that he was startled; after all, he hadn't ever come in on Dorian laying naked on the couch with some other man, and it cut him to the quick. There was business and then there was *business*, and he had thought, perhaps, once they were solvent....

But they weren't quite solvent yet, were they?

Dorian was still asleep, dozing quietly, his arms loosely around the boy's slender frame. Jeffry, however, was very much awake. He'd been gazing down at the golden-haired earl with a look of supreme satisfaction on his face when James walked in.

"Oh, hello James," he murmured. "It looks like we're going to be roommates."

"R-roommates?" James squeaked out, paling. "I thought you were *BUSINESS*!" he yelled, waking Dorian with the sheer ferocity of it.

The golden head turned, and Dorian blinked at the sound of James's voice. "What is it?" he said sleepily, pulling a silky throw down off the top of the sofa and burrowing into it. "What's wrong? James why are you *yelling* at this ungodly hour?"

"Because *HE'S* in your bed!" James wailed angrily, not caring that it was actually the *couch*. "And you said last night was BUSINESS! THAT'S NOT BUSINESS, *DORIAN*!!!!!"

Standing gracefully, Dorian trailed the throw over Jeffry and walked to James, catching him lightly but strongly by the arm. "Excuse us, dear boy," he called over his shoulder, "but we have a few matters to discuss." Looking sideways at James he pulled him out of the room and whispered, "Come *here*!"

"Ouch!" James whined, tugging on his arm, brows knitting tightly. "Don't pull so hard! Why are *you* angry!? *I* didn't bring some strange man into *my* bed!!"

Ensconced in the bedroom, Dorian turned to the smaller man, frowning. "I can't believe your manners. Making a fuss in front of him, just like a child! We've never hand any kind of exclusive arrangement, James, you know that. Jeffry is developing into a wonderful forger, and he's a delightful young man, just as you are. He can be part of our team, too..." He trailed off and gave the accountant a sultry look. "He'll make money for us... *lots* of money..."

Ohh, money, and Dorian looking at him like that...! He was going to melt, surely he was...!!! "But..." James said, fretting over it. "But I... I..." /*I* want you, just you and me. You *don't* love me, do you...?/ Oh, that was a terrible HURTFUL thought!!!

As if reading his mind, Dorian walked over and stood before him, completely naked and unselfconscious, trailing a finger over his cheek. "I don't love you any less, you know," he purred. "It's not the same with him because I know you better; you're my original partner and always will be. So don't fret about it, Jamesie..." He leaned over and pressed his mouth to James. "What can I do to reassure you?"

"Stay with me this morning?" James pleaded, wrapping his arms tightly about Dorian. "Ohhh..."

The tall blond patted him gently and murmured, "Alas, dear boy -- I have a meeting with Mr. Satterthwaite in an hour. That'll take me straight through lunchtime." He looked down in sympathy. "Something else perhaps?"

Tentatively, almost breathlessly, James looked up at him. "You could leave your..." His voice trailed off, hand tracing over a bare hip in indication of what he wanted.

A slow, sensuous smile appeared on Dorian's face. "I need a shower, so why don't you be an angel and get my clothes. You can take the ones in there." He leaned over and gave James a long and lingering kiss.

"Ohhhh," James sighed breathlessly. "I can? You're sure?" Oh, how he loved it when Dorian let him have at least *something* of his, even if it was undies. He was becoming quite obsessive about it, actually.

"Thank you for understanding, dear boy. I'll be out in half and hour. Would you please tell Jeffry to come in?"

Ohhh, James didn't *want* to tell him to come in! His face scrunched up as he slunk back to where Jeffry remained, grumbling fitfully. "You. He says come in."

Smiling with delight, Jeffry tossed off the throw and headed across the room to the door where James stood.

"Tell me," he said, giving the accountant a wink, "is he even better in the morning?"

"No!" James snarled, cornering the cute fellow. "He's even more aggravating come morning than he could dream of being the night before!"

Jeffry drew back, large eyes grown even larger. "But he wasn't aggravating at all last night! What's got *you* so upset?"

"What's got *ME* upset!?" James cried. "*What's* got *ME* upset!? YOU!" he yelled, stomping off towards his own small bedroom and slamming the door.

By mid-December, two additional boys had become part of Dorian's "team." Each one had possessed a distinct talent that fit well with crime in the art world and each had been wooed and won by the Earl's charms, first seduced and then bedded by the blond, who afterwards seemed to become some sort of god-like creature to them.

The flat was becoming crowded, no more so than the night Dorian threw a private party for all of them, saying he had a surprise to announce.

/I'll just bet,/ James thought bitterly, blue eyes hard from where he sat stuffed miserably in a corner of the room. He'd come to enjoy misery over the last few months -- after all, he'd always learned to enjoy what Dorian wanted with him, hadn't he? And all of the new boys coming in, oh, how they hurt him, just by their mere presence!

When everyone had a glass of champagne, Dorian rose and looked around at all of them, smiling brilliantly. "Well, my dearest boys, I have something very special to announce. Thanks to everyone's hard work, and some rather *breathtaking* accounting on the part of our Jamesie, I am proud to inform you all that we are moving to larger quarters."

He took a piece of legal paper out of his pocket and tossed it to James. "You get the first peek, dear one. What do you think about *that* address?"

Wide-eyed, James flipped it open. Oh, they were barely solvent, really, they were! What on earth had Dorian done...!? The moment his eyes lit on the address, he knew, and he teared up despite himself. /Oh. Ohhh.../ "We... we can't move there, yet!" he protested. "It's already cost so much!"

"We are *meant* to be there!" Dorian laughed. "It's what I've been working so hard for this year -- and I won't be denied, James, so don't even try it!"

"Where is it, James?" asked one of the boys, an angelic looking blond with short hair and a sensuous mouth.

"It's a castle in North Downs, Daniel," the little accountant told the pretty thing, scowling. "Full of spiders and bats and nasty old things and not at all ready to live in! Why, the roof might even fall in on our heads! We'd need LOTS of money to fix it up!"

"Eeeeek! Spiders!?" Bobby cried, looking to Dorian. "You didn't say nothin' 'bout no *SPIDERS*!!"

"No, no -- fumigation was part of the closing," Dorian said, waving a hand dismissively, "and lots of the furniture is already there. We're not going to an empty building. Now James, you'll either be merry with the rest of us, or be grumpy somewhere else. Who needs more champagne?"

Oh, Dorian was throwing him out already! The tears, shortly of wonder, turned more bitter, and he buried his face in his knees momentarily. /I hate you,/ he thought. /I hate you. I love you. It's awful and impossible!/

"Come on, James," Daniel said, nudging him. "Dorian's right. It's wonderful to be getting so much room -- and it's nearly Christmas! Cheer up!"

There was a knock on the door and Dorian swallowed his champagne quickly. "Oh -- that's my second surprise!" he said, heading to answer it.

"Ch-Christmas just means he's going to spend lots and lots of money," James snuffled, frowning. "And you three are here. What's to be cheerful about?"

"Maybe you'll get a nice present," Jeffry cajoled. "Your calculator is probably worn out from all of that number-crunching you do, hm?"

Carefully, James pulled it from a pocket and clutched it tightly. "MINE!" he cried, holding it close and frowning.

Jeffry rolled his eyes as Dorian walked back into the room, smiling brightly. "Everyone, I'd like to introduce a new friend. This is Bonham." He gestured to a small man who had come up next to him -- small, compact, with a trim but bushy mustache.

"NOT ANOTHER ONE!" James cried, bursting into tears as the other three rallied around the new man, greeting him curiously.

"He's *wonderful*, James," Dorian said, moving to the table and pouring more champagne. "Mind like a rapier, and so sweet and cuddly! Bonham -- come over and meet James."

"I don't WANT to meet a Bonham!" came the wail. "'s just more money, and you'll want this and that, and you never *do it* anymore!"

"*James*! I've just about had enough of this attitude of yours!" Dorian said sharply. "Do you *want* all of us to be miserable? Is that why you're doing this?" His eyebrows were twitching, mouth beginning to pull down in a devastatingly adorable pout.

"*I've* been miserable for *months* and you didn't notice, so why shouldn't I want you to be miserable, too?" he grouched, lower lip pouting.

"Oh, Lord," Daniel muttered. "Here we go."

"Hmpf!" Dorian sniffed and turned away, golden hair flying out behind him. "You just don't know how to share, James. And you're excellent at ruining a good party! This should have been such a *happy* occasion." He turned back around, looking gorgeous and pitiful, and walked slowly towards the smaller man. "I mean -- *James.* This represents all our hard work. All the things we've been doing together." Leaning down, he chucked the accountant under his chin and purred, "All that wonderful calculating you've done... come on, Jamesie. Be a love -- cheer up."

"Will you do it again?" he whispered, humiliated to plead for such a thing in front of all the others. "Please?"

"Don't I always?" Dorian murmured, nibbling a little at his lips. "Let's make a special date, *very* soon, hmm?"

Daniel gave Bobby a nudge and a wink.

Nodding, James wiped his face and began to calm down. He didn't think Dorian really MEANT it, but... well... a promise of a date was better than nothing, wasn't it? And if Dorian was ignoring him, maybe he *did* deserve it, a little... maybe? "All right."

"Bless you, lovely boy," the blond said, "now -- come and meet Bonham..."

The new man stepped up and gave James a hesitant smile.

"Hullo," James sniffled out, offering one slightly tear-and-snot-damp hand. "I'm Mr. James."

"Bonham," the man said cheerfully. "Very nice to meet you. I'm *very* excited about moving in with all of you! The Earl is *wonderful*..." He glanced up at Dorian with a slightly adoring look.

"Yes," the little accountant sighed. "I know. Too much for his own good, I sometimes think!"

"Oh, never *that* much!" Jeffry cried, coming forward. "I'm Jeffry. It's very nice to have you, Bonham!"

"Thank you!" Bonham said, smiling. "So -- how are the sleeping arrangements made?"

"There's only two bedrooms," Bobby offered. "We shift 'em around a bit..." Usually, that meant one person slept on the couch, two with Lord Gloria, and everyone was glad that they didn't have to sleep with James, because he had been awfully *grumpy* of late!

/And I'm not sharing unless it's with *HIM*!/ James thought stubbornly to himself, crossing his arms over his thin chest.

"And we won't be here much longer," Dorian beamed. "We'll be moving to the North Downs in ten days."

"Oh, even better," Bonham said affably. "Is it a large house?"

Jeffry looked over at James and said pointedly, "It's *huge*."

"And expensive and in need of repairs and.."

"Oh, bugger *all*, James," Bobby groaned. "It ain't gonna kill nobody, an' we all promise to work ourselves clean to fingernubs, all right!?"

"SOMEONE has to be practical!" James cried.

"Ah, but *tonight* is not a time for practicality," Dorian purred. "Tonight is a night for merry making, eh boys?" He held his glass aloft and smiled at all of his boys.

That was answered with cheers and frivolity from most of his team -- all but one, who quietly sighed, turned, and left the party.

Might as well be miserable on his own.

"James? I'm going out this evening. Have you seen my red silk scarf? I can't find it anywhere."

"No," James lied, fingering the soft material of the thing behind his back. He hadn't *seen* it... but he'd *touched* it!

"Honestly, where could that thing be?" the blond man said irritably. "It was just here -- on the dresser. Help me look for it, Jamesie!"

"Where are you going?" James asked him, frowning. "You shouldn't wear red if you're going to *work*!"

"It's only partially business," the Earl said lightly. "Besides, I want to look my best -- and it is St. Valentine's Day. Red is *always* appropriate for St. Valentine's."

"Can't you stay home? Just tonight?" It was a little whiny, more than a little cajoling, and all around pathetic, when you got right down to it. "Just tonight, just with me, oh, *please*, you never do it anymore, and you promised two whole months ago, you *promised*..."

"I'm sorry, dear boy -- things have been so busy, what with moving into the castle and stepping up work to pay for it all. You *will* have your special night, *very* soon. Now, will you come over and give me a kiss? Hmm?"

A kiss would be very, very nice, and so he slipped over and lifted his face, hands still behind his back. He supposed he'd give Dorian the scarf after all...

"I want a *real* kiss, Jamesie," the blond murmured, pulling the smaller man closer and taking his mouth quite firmly. His tongue begged for entrance as long, slender fingers tangled in James's curls, forcing his head back a bit and making him feel more vulnerable. "Still as sweet as ever," Dorian said against warm lips. "My pretty James..."

"I miss you," James whispered, bringing up the scarf to lightly place it around Dorian's throat. "I miss you very much. Please... take time, soon..."

"Don't you worry, dear one," Dorian murmured, not at all surprised to find the scarf around his neck. "I would never forget about you."

With a sigh, James let him go. Sometimes, it seemed as if that was quite all he ever did -- let him go. "You should go now... to work."

"I'll see you in the morning," Dorian said, sliding out of James's arms and walking to the doorway. "And remember -- don't wait up for me." /It'll only make you more miserable, poor thing.../

He blew the younger man a kiss and was gone.

Another little sigh seeped from the small dark-haired man. Oh, he was *lonely* without Dorian, and Dorian was so often gone. He sometimes wondered if he had traded the beatings and companionship of Robert only to be lonely and without Dorian, but then he felt just as bad about even thinking it, and he would stop. Perhaps it was that he often felt completely undeserving of Dorian's attention.

Maybe that was even why he didn't get it -- why he sometimes went so far as to push it away with his whininess. It was all speculation, though, and he was still unhappy no matter what, so...

So, at least he had Dorian's underwear to soothe him.

"Hallo, James!" a cheerful voice came from the hallway. "Care for a game of cards?" Bonham peeked around the door frame, smiling merrily. "Only I've got a lovely fire going in the sitting room downstairs, see, and we could have a little nip..."

Oh, but he wanted to stay with Dorian's lovely things, and a hand caressed lightly over the clean pair of folded undies on the dresser top. "That sounds all right," he agreed with a sigh. "'s better than sitting and waiting for him to come back, anyway..."

"Where was he off to this time?" Bonham asked as he led the way downstairs. "Business again? Checking out a new location for the boys?"

When he'd come into Dorian's team at Christmas, Bonham had quickly taken stock of his new home and the organization within it. Dorian was the mastermind and the best burglar, leading a team of about five young men into the homes and galleries they robbed, with another group of three who could pilot their helicopter. James was the money man, finding markets for their wares and running the household accounts, and he himself was the technology wizard of the group. It all seemed very right and cozy to Bonham, who, like the other young men, was extremely fond of Dorian and grateful for his attentions when they came his way. None of them, though, were like James -- who made no secret of wanting the Earl for himself exclusively.

"Or it could be a new boy," James sighed melodramatically, stumping along after him in a fit of despondency. "There's always a new boy these days, you know."

Bonham looked at him sympathetically. "Well, we *could* use more of us on the team. That's what they're *really* here for. You shouldn't worry so much."

"But..." James bit his lip. "But he spends so much time *with* *them*. And what if he *really* decides he loves someone else?" He was mostly certain, by then, that Dorian did not love *him*.

Bonham shook his head as they entered the sitting room. "He hasn't talked at all like that, James. He doesn't favor any of the boys especially. He spends more time with you than any of the others. As for him bringing home new ones... that's just the Earl, isn't it? Part of his nature. He wouldn't be his Lordship if he didn't fancy pretty boys."

"But *I* want to be the only pretty boy," James informed him. "*I* want to be the only one in his bed. I used to be, I think. I didn't mind if he had old men for lovers, that's fine, that's *business*. This... THIS isn't *business*!"

"But why do you say that?" Bonham asked, pouring drinks. "All of the boys here are in the team, not just pretty ornaments for him. They all have a specialty and it's *not* just that they're good in bed. That's just a fringe benefit for him, I suppose."

"But he's not *supposed* to get fringe benefits! He never wanted fringe benefits before!" James wailed. That was a blatant falsehood and he knew it -- after all, hadn't he been the 'fringe benefit' not so long ago?

"Now, James," Bonham soothed, "you know what he's like. I can't imagine him being that different just two or three years ago. It's in his nature to flirt and most of the time it means absolutely nothing. It's like breathing to him. He doesn't love you any less because of it."

"But he doesn't love me *at all*," James answered bitterly. "He's never said so, never implied it, even!"

"But he shows it, doesn't he" the other man continued patiently, "in all the things he does for you. In asking you to be a large part of his life. Even when he brought the rest of us home, he didn't abandon you."

"But..." James bit his lip. It was hard to argue with that, truly, because... well... what Bonham said was *true*. "Maybe..." he agreed, taking the drink that he was handed and hugging it tightly.

"Not maybe," Bonham said, sitting in the chair across from James, both in front of the fire. "It's true and you know it. Now, let's have a good game of cards and he'll be home before you know it."

"He said not to wait up," James replied, "but a game of cards can't hurt, can it?" Even if he WAS up when Dorian came home, and probably with yet another new forger or thief or *something*.

It was well after midnight, and Bonham was snoozing in his armchair, when the front door opened in the foyer, catching his attention and causing him to rise and go to the door of the parlour. Two figures, wound around each other, seemed almost to blow in, followed by wind-driven sleet, until the taller one managed to get the door firmly shut. Then they went back to their embrace. "Mmm...dear boy," came Dorian's voice. "You *are* a little tiger, aren't you...?"

"*Your* tiger!" the strawberry-blond sighed, rubbing tightly against him. "Oh, *Dorian*, you're better than nitrous oxide...."

Well, Bonham decided. THAT was certainly different!

"You can be my own personal chemistry set," Dorian said with a low chuckle. "You're like a Grecian God, you know -- or one of the nymphs, perhaps... oh, let's get somewhere where we can lie down!"

A slight cough revealed Bonham's presence discreetly as his eyes sparkled. Lord Gloria's compliments were always magnificently *effusive*. Even he fell before them, most willingly! "Your chambers await, m'lord," he said with all dignity, quietly.

"Oh, Bonham, dear boy -- didn't see you there," Dorian purred. "Bonham this is Edward," he said, indicating the slender young man with long, reddish blond curls who was practically climbing his frame. "He's just taken a first at Oxford -- reading Chemistry..." He trailed off as Edward pressed against him again. "Knows... ever so much... about soporific gases..."

"Ohhh, yes, but I'd much rather be specifically dealing with *non*-
soporific you," Edward nearly purred, rubbing lightly against him.

Unable to hide his smile, Bonham nodded. "It sounds most fascinating, my lord. I'm sure you'll have... ah, interesting discourse this evening."

"Right you are, Bonham!" Dorian said with a sweet lilt to his voice. "Well, if you'll excuse us, Edward and I have some... things to discuss..." He gave the little man a wink and then guided a salivating Edward up the main stairs. Halfway up he looked back and murmured, "Oh, and Bonham -- make sure James doesn't wake us at the crack of dawn, please... G' night!"

Chuckling quietly to himself, Bonham went around turning out lights. Well, Lord Gloria could *hope* that he could make sure James wouldn't wake anyone at the crack of down...but Bonham certainly wasn't going to make any promises! The little miser had a bad habit of getting around the most diligent of guards to shriek when Dorian had morning visitors.

Ah, well.

It kept Lord Gloria on his toes!

"Jamesie... I think it's high time we took that night to ourselves... don't you?" The voice was slightly muffled, coming, as it did, through the half-open bathroom door. It wafted out along with the fragrant steam that Dorian seemed to require whenever he took a bath.

It was a low voice... seductive.

It nearly drove James to his *knees*.

"Really?" he asked, sneaking to the door and pushing it open to look inside. "Truly? Can we?" It was such a *yearning* voice, almost pleading, and so intensely grateful as to be embarrassing, in truth.

The Earl stretched a long, soapy leg upward, running a washcloth over it slowly. "Yes, I think so. We've been working *very* hard and I think we need a break -- a couple of days, even..."

"Can I wash your back?" James asked, kneeling beside the deep tub, *looking* at Dorian -- just looking. He was so beautiful that it made the little Scottish man ache all over just from the thought of touching him, much less the actuality of it, and he sighed as Dorian leaned forward, offering him broad shoulders that slimmed down to a narrow waist and slim hips. "Where will we go? Somewhere quiet?" Quiet sounded most promising -- with any luck, there wouldn't be any pretty boys there!

"Oh, I know *exactly* where to go," Dorian said, arching his back a little and letting a tiny bit of cleft show above the bubbles. "You'll love it -- and we'll be *completely* alone."

"That sounds so perfect..." Oh, he couldn't help letting his fingers trace down there, teasingly running across Dorian's lower back, a thumb lightly caressing over that lovely little hint of opening. "I still do love you, you know..."

"Mmm... you are *so* sweet, dear boy," the blond man murmured, wriggling in pleasure at the touch. "And I love you to pieces, of course. Why don't we go tomorrow? Hmm?"

The words that seemed to come so easily from Dorian sent James into an absolute *spiral* of glee. He'd never said that before, not ever! Perhaps Bonham was right... maybe he really *did* love him! "Tomorrow sounds wonderful," he sighed, "if we can't go right now!"

Dorian laughed and leaned back again, settling deeper into the bubbles. "Tomorrow -- I've got a few loose ends to tie up first. So go and pack your bags, Jamesie, and pack for pleasant weather."

With a near squeal of joy, James kissed him, standing up and getting ready to run right out and obey. "I will!" he promised. "Oh, I will! Thank you, m'lord!"

Dorian simply shook his head and picked up his wine glass, holding it aloft and murmuring. "Here's to your enthusiasm, Jamesie. My, my, my..."

James's mouth fairly gaped open when he saw it from the small boat they had taken to arrive at their destination, blue eyes rounding with amazement even as the boat came to a stop and they slipped off of it, walking up towards the place. "Oh, *Lord Gloria*," he whispered. "It's..."

Huge, expensive, gorgeous, incredible. All of those words came to mind, but none of them actually came *out*. Indeed, he could only look at the place in amazement.

It was probably costing something perfectly *awful* to have to themselves for the weekend, but they could afford renting it for just a few days....

"So, do you like it?" Dorian asked casually, draping an arm around the smaller man.

"It's perfect," James replied, eyes wide. "Perfect for just you and me..."

"All alone," Dorian murmured. He turned James to the left as they stood on the wide stone terrace. "*That,*" he said, pointing to a greenish island in the distance, "is Guernsey," and *that,*" he turned James to the right, "is Sark. I love the Channel Islands, don't you? The weather is *so* much warmer than in London. We could almost go about naked, it's so warm..."

"Ohh, my *Lord*!!" That was a terribly exciting thought, naked in the water with Dorian, legs tangled in legs, nothing but him and Dorian and the fish...

Well, perhaps he wouldn't consider the matter of the *fish*.

"I'm so happy. You can't imagine," he confessed quietly, turning to look up at Dorian.

"And I am so glad to hear it," Dorian murmured, turning James in his arms and taking a long, slow kiss. They broke away from each other slowly. "Shall we go inside and pick a room to stay in tonight?"

"Oh, yes," James whispered breathily. "Shall we choose a different room every night, my Lord? You can do anything you want, anything at all, I'll be better for you than all of those other boys can be..."

"No pressure, Jamesie," came the languid reply as Dorian led him inside. "Come on -- let's explore..."

"All right," James agreed, taking his hand, quite pleased with himself. "All right."

Dorian was standing at a tall window that looked out towards Guernsey. He was, however, enjoying the *indoor* view, namely James, lying on the bed, looking every inch the ravished young man he was. "That's the way I like seeing you," he murmured softly. "Much better than being grumpy."

"Mmmmm," James sighed, stretching out slowly. "'f you came to me more often, you'd see me this way more often," he prompted with a slight smile. "I miss you. I don't... don't want to *share* you..."

"Selfish little beast," Dorian teased. "But you fit very well here, you know. You belong in beautiful places and I like to see you overwhelmed with *both* wealth and passion. They both carry you away so delightfully."

"Hmmm, no, it's you who carries me away," he was informed, blue eyes wide and worshipful upon him. "One day, we'll have all the money we could like. One day. I'll let you buy anything you want once we're all out of debt, I promise. Just a little while longer. Just a little more work..."

Dorian tilted his head to the side, letting golden curls tumble over his shoulder. "Some things are too good to wait for, Jamesie. Some things just *have* to be bought on sight..."

"No such thing," James disagreed a little chidingly, the look of Dorian in all of that glorious moonlight almost enough to convince him that Dorian was one of the fey, some imagining he'd cooked up and not real at all. "Not when there're so many debts piled up..."

"But there aren't, Jamesie dear," the blond man said. "I had a very long look at the books just a week ago. We're in the black -- have been since Christmas. We're meeting our obligations and as far as I'm concerned it's time I reaped some of the rewards of my hazardous occupation."

Turning slowly to gaze out the window, he continued. "I do what I do for the thrill of it, of course, but even more so for the beauty to be gained. Beautiful paintings, beautiful sculpture, beautiful people... and lovely places to put it all."

An absolutely sick feeling flooded through James as he sat up, clutching the covers with him. "My Lord," he said in a low voice, reasonably, "we've got just enough to pay regular salaries to all of your *boys*. They've got debts of their own. I've got debts of *mine*. We're still paying for the castle at North Downs and you're still buying things left and right to go in it. Tell me you haven't done something just awful!"

Dorian looked at him, his expression half hurt, half surprised. "No, I haven't done something awful! I've done something wonderful. I've bought this place." He gave the other man a playful wink.

James could almost feel the blood leaving his face as he paled, looking at Dorian in disbelief. "You didn't. Oh, tell me you didn't..." The cost... oh, the cost would be ungodly, they couldn't *afford* it, being in the black for the moment didn't mean they had that kind of money at all!!!

"Of course I did -- and I got if for a real bargain, too, Jamesie, you'd be proud of me. The old git was *so* easy to talk down. Just a few eyelashes batted and several leans out of the window to admire the view. He came down forty percent after that."

"Forty percent's not *enough* when we don't have any money to speak of!" James cried, throwing off the covers and standing up quickly. "Don't you understand!? How're we going to pay for the place? How're we going to pay the bills and the boys, *Lord* *Gloria*!? D'you think a night of sex would make me acquiescent to such absolute impossibilities!?"

The finest of lines made itself visible between Dorian's brows. "I can't believe you just said that to me," he whispered. "I thought you understood our relationship better than that." His voice was devastatingly quiet, full of disappointment. "Apparently I misjudged you. If you find my company and my actions so reprehensible, I will find another room to sleep in tonight. We will leave in the morning."

He stared at the accountant for just a moment longer and then walked swiftly to the door, where he turned only briefly to look back, frowning. "And I *am* buying this property, James. Most of it is my money, and I'll do with it what I like."

"Do what you like!" James shrieked at him, tears welling up and spilling over wildly. "When have you ever done anything but just what you liked!? It's your money, but you wouldn't have even half of it if I didn't work for it, and you can't even *ask* me before you do something perfectly mad! So fine! Do anything, do whatever you like, walk all over me! I'm sure your *boys* won't mind when you don't pay them, just like they don't mind who you fuck and don't care that you don't love any of them, and you certainly don't love me! Do whatever makes you *bloody well happy*, *DORIAN*!!"

The Earl gazed at James for a long, lingering moment, and then walked briskly out of the room. It seemed as though fire trailed in his wake, lashing out from his long, golden curls as he left to stalk down the hallway and into the other wing of the castle.

As he went, James crumpled to the floor behind him, and wept wildly. It was hopeless. It was so hopeless, but...

He loved him.

He loved Dorian.

And he would stay, no matter what.

After all... where else did he have to go?

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