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Frederick is perched on the lower branches of a tall tree. There's hardly any breeze tonight, and it's beginning to feel like summer. He gazes up at an opening in the clouds, a rare window through which he can see a handful of glittering stars.

He stands, and begins to walk farther out towards the sky.

"What are you doing?"

Frederick stops at the sound of the familiar voice, and looks down.

"I've noticed that you hardly ever say 'hello' anymore. I'm rather flattered—it must mean we're quite close."

Julian responds with just the barest hint of a smile. But his eyes are serious when he guesses, "You were going to fly again, weren't you?"

Innocently, "And if I was?"

Julian sighs lightly. "You know why you can't do that."

"Do I, now?" Frederick asks, watching his friend examine the tall, bare trunk of the tree he's in. Perhaps looking for a foothold? He won't find one.

"The Captain won't be very pleased with you if she finds out you've been wasting your energy on frivolous recreation."

"Might I point out that I've never known her to be 'very pleased' with me?"

"I'm glad you seem to find this amusing, but I'm being serious." Julian's eyes are on him again. "It's selfish."

Frederick sighs, silently examining Julian's earnest expression for a moment. He decides eventually to join his friend on solid ground, stepping off his perch and landing lightly on his feet.

"Thank you," Julian says, turning to leave.

"You're welcome," Frederick returns, carefully making the inflection as unnatural as possible. It causes Julian to turn and raise a questioning eyebrow, to which Frederick promptly explains, "Somehow, I doubt that our great and mighty cause was the only reason you felt it necessary to tell me I was being selfish." He steps forward, pretending to straighten Julian's lapel.

When Julian fails to respond with anything more than a quiet look, Frederick adds, in a breezier tone, "You'd hate to see me fly away again, wouldn't you?"

"I notice you keep coming back."

Frederick grins at the familiar sparkle of humor in his friend's eye—it's always a little more charming, when he knows he's been the cause of it.

"Oh, dear," he coos, grasping Julian's jacket a bit more firmly now. "It seems I'm slowly becoming domesticated. Soon you'll have me in a cage."

Julian seems thoughtful about that for a moment, and slips his hands around to Frederick's back, just above the skirts of his coat. "I'd like to think that my arms are not a cage," he says quietly.

Frederick gazes at the serious expression on Julian's face, and tries not to sigh. He reaches up to bury gloved fingers in thick, dark hair.

"It's not your arms, my friend—it's your eyes."

It's delayed, but Julian gradually returns the smile Frederick was using to try to lighten the mood. He closes his eyes, bringing one hand in front again to stroke beneath Frederick's chin, causing shivers to run down Frederick's spine. "I don't need a cage," he murmurs. "I have other ways of keeping you here."

He slips two fingers under Frederick's collar, using it to pull him into a kiss. Frederick doesn't resist, but he can't avoid a slight shudder when he notices that Julian is slowly loosening his cravat.

A bit reluctantly, he pulls away. "Not here," he says, forcing himself to stare straight into Julian's eyes.

It's clear that Julian understands his meaning, when he slowly lets go and leads the way back to the house.

They avoid the front door, entering Frederick's bedroom from the outside.

Jackets are discarded on a chair. Cravats slide off with the distinct swishing sound of silk against cotton. Gloves are removed between teeth, and buttons are unfastened by the other person's fingers.

It follows, of course, that they should end up on the bed.

Frederick sits above Julian, straddling his legs and wrapping arms in thin shirtsleeves around his neck. Julian tries, meanwhile, to unbutton Frederick's waistcoat, but he seems distracted by the soft, pale skin around Frederick's collarbone, which has been exposed underneath his now-unfastened collar. Frederick is also distracted, if the light gasps and nearly-inaudible moans escaping his lips are any indication.

He can feel Julian's energy entering his body through each kiss that lands there, rhythmic and heavy like waves against the shore. He feels a hint of it wherever they touch, but the sensation is more potent when it comes so close to the source of his own powers, high in his chest where his friend's lips have found their way. It's not a perfect match for his own, of course, but thrilling in its own way, fluid and cold, and he shivers slightly at the rush.

Anxious for more of that feeling, he slides his hands up to Julian's temples, teasing the edges of his ears with the tips of his fingers. Julian moans and pulls away, causing Frederick to feel like he can breathe again suddenly. It's an oddly disappointing sensation.

"Always," Julian sighs, reaching for one of Fredericks hands. "Always in such a rush…"

He kisses the hand that he took, starting with his fingertips and moving in towards his palm. Frederick only watches, silent between his attempts to breathe normally again and his uncertainty as to what he would say. He's a bit distracted, too, by the way that Julian's long, dark eyelashes flutter against his cheeks as he kisses Frederick's skin.

Julian has moved on to the inside of Frederick's wrist before he speaks again. "Promise me you won't leave tonight," he whispers. Frederick can feel his breath against his hand, and he shivers again.

"I can't be making promises like that—you'll hold me to them!"

Julian pulls away again, as Frederick starts to laugh. His expression is painfully serious, and Frederick's chuckling is soon reduced to a hesitant, apologetic smile.

It's somehow worse when Julian looks away. Frederick hesitates just one moment longer before placing his hand against Julian's cheek and turning him towards him again.

"All right," he concedes, managing to look his friend in the eye even if his tone lacks its usual confidence. He pushes Julian down onto the pillows. "I promise."

.....


Inevitably, Frederick wakes in the middle of the night.

He pulls away from Julian automatically, and sits up. Fly—run away, something in him urges, and he almost does, without even having to think about it. But then he remembers his promise.

He said he wouldn't leave.

He sighs quietly, feeling his shoulders fall. He glances over at Julian, at the peaceful expression he's never seen there before when they've slept together like this. And he realizes, with mixed satisfaction and unease, that his friend believed him. It would be so easy to break that trust, to leave and let him sleep peacefully like that, unaware that he's alone. Frederick pulls the curtains of the bed back slightly, to catch a better glimpse of the night sky, full of stars that glitter almost beckoningly, painted with wispy, inviting clouds that lie scattered about the edges.

One foot makes it to the floor, when Frederick hears Julian sigh in his sleep.

It was such a quiet sound, he's not even sure he heard it. But when he glances back at his friend's face, he notices that the familiar crease between his brows has returned, as if he already knows that Frederick is on his way out.

Frederick sighs, pulling himself back in under the covers. He wouldn't want to admit that he feels trapped, but he does. He would hide it, if there were anyone to hide it from—but he's not only trapped, he's alone, and he can't possibly imagine a worse feeling than that.

He looks at Julian again, and considers something.

After a deep breath, he leans over to place a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Julian," he whispers.

Julian's eyes flutter halfway open, uncovering deep, questioning eyes. He doesn't respond in any way other than that, and Frederick knows he can sense the hesitance and discomfort that's making his heart beat slightly faster. "I can't sleep," he admits, quietly.

Julian looks at him quietly for a moment, then reaches to pull Frederick down on top of him. "Stay," he pleads, still sounding more than a little sleepy.

Frederick closes his eyes, trying to relax. He still feels restless, though, and eventually pulls away somewhat. But he stays close in Julian's arms, kissing his cheeks, his forehead, his closed eyelids. His kisses are almost a little desperate, and become more so when he senses Julian's breathing slowing down again.

"Are you falling asleep?" he asks finally, trying not to sound disappointed. He should let Julian sleep, if he's tired…

Julian picks up on it, though, of course, and rolls over on top of Frederick, presumably because switching positions will help him stay awake. "I'm sorry," he whispers in Frederick's ear, wrapping one strong arm around Frederick's slender waist, and bending to kiss his lips.

Frederick realizes that he couldn't get away now, even if he tried. But somehow, he feels a little less trapped.
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February 2011

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