Lord and Master: Old Age Creeping Over Me

Lord and Master was only supposed to be one book, my take on the classic tycoon/secretary romance with the classic HEA ending. Except, as so often happens, I then had a few ideas about what happened next. After all, they had to wait nearly two years between Steven's formal proposal and the day they could legally get married.

I ended up writing a trio of linked stories about the year after Steven proposed to Mark, looking at how they learnt how to make the relationship work outside the office, and the way Steven's family reacted to their relationship. The second and third stories, about Steven's family, are published by Loose Id as Lord and Master 2: Taking Work Home.

This is the first story of that set. It has rather less plot than the other two, which is why it's not in the published book. :-) But several people had asked to see something from Steven's point of view, so I wrote this for them. It's set on Mark's 26th birthday, two months after the end of the main story in Lord and Master.

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May 2004

Chapter 1

"I think that's all for today, ladies and gentlemen. I suggest we meet again in two weeks time."

As the others around the table murmured agreement and started packing their documents away, Steven pulled out his PDA to make a note of the next meeting date. He couldn't help smiling as he noticed the note for his other appointment today.

Take boyfriend out to dinner for his birthday.

"What's up?" Bob Gordon asked.

Well, his lab manager would appreciate this. "One of the nice things about being important enough to have a PA is that someone else remembers important birthdays for me." He pushed the PDA along the table so that Bob could read it.

Bob grinned as he read it. "That boy can be very unsubtle when he chooses to be. Have you booked a table?"

"Yes, which is doubtless why he wants to make quite sure I'm not late back." He glanced at the time. "But there's plenty of time yet before I need to go for my train. Have you got half an hour to have a coffee with me, Bob? We don't seem to get much time to just sit over a drink together these days." As casually as possible, but Bob flicked a glance at him, before answering equally casually, "Why not? We finished early."

Sarah grabbed the PDA before he could pull it back, and glanced at the screen. "The boyfriend in fact being that pretty little PA of yours? I suppose that's another nice thing about being important enough to have a PA -- it's a lot easier to pull an attractive girl. Or boy, in your case. You're taking him somewhere suitably expensive, I hope."

He was mostly sure she was just teasing. "Don't be so cynical. I'm sure he loves me for myself alone, and not my ability to take him out to an expensive restaurant for his birthday."

She raised an eyebrow at him. "I'll believe it, even if thousands wouldn't. Mostly because I can appreciate other entirely shallow reasons for him to be interested in you, even if the men don't. You're fairly decorative yourself."

Yes, definitely teasing rather than malicious. He smiled at her. "Flattery will get you nowhere. Well, no discount off the price of the contract."

She snorted in amusement. "You're the last man I'd expect to be swayed in a business decision by flattery, and certainly not flattery from me. Well, say happy birthday to your boyfriend from me." She paused, then asked, "How old is he going to be this year? Twenty?"

"Ouch. That's a low blow," Steven protested. Mark was young, but not that young, and Sarah knew it.

She laughed, added, "No, he's got a PhD, hasn't he? He must be twenty-five at least," and walked away.

"Now that you two have finished flirting," Bob said, "how about that coffee?"

Scene break

"Out with it," Bob said as soon as they were somewhere private. "What did you need to talk to me about that you didn't want to discuss over the phone?"

"Mark's not just my boyfriend. I've proposed to him. He's accepted."

Bob whistled in surprise. "As in marriage? Oh, civil partnership, or whatever the bloody euphemism is. Steven, that's a big step to take. Are the pair of you that sure it's going to work?"

"Well, it's going to be a long engagement, given that it's going to be at least a year before the registry office can start doing civil partnership ceremonies even if the bill passes in the Lords." Probably even longer than that. "And we're not planning on telling the world for a while; just a few people who need to know. But he's going to need a thick skin when we do -- Sarah was only teasing, but other people won't be." He had absolutely no doubt that Mark wasn't just looking for an easy life with a rich man; but his reasons for knowing that weren't something he was going to share with the world at large.

"Oh, I've no doubt he's in love with you." Bob smiled slightly. "First time I ever saw him, I thought, 'That child has a massive crush on Steven, though at least he's got the wit to hide it.'"

"How did you know?" Mark had done a very good job of hiding it, those first few weeks. Not perfect, but very good.

"The way he looked at you when you were talking about the projects in the labs," Bob said. "I can still remember my university days, and I remember people with that sort of expression. He was still just about young enough to have a crush on an attractive lecturer he admired."

So Bob had seen it as well. "Is that why you interrogated me about whether I was taking advantage of him?"

"Well, I didn't really think you'd hired him just for his looks. But you were obviously thoroughly enjoying playing mentor to a bright young thing who looked up to you."

That was true enough. He hadn't realised how much he would enjoy the mentorship role he'd taken on with Mark; that there was a great deal of pleasure to be had in the mentor-student relationship. That relationship was another good reason why he shouldn't have done what he'd done, even if he had no regrets about how it had turned out.

Though he still felt a stab of guilt when Bob asked, "So when did you two..."

"A couple of hours after that first time you met him," he confessed.

Bob stared at him. "You said..."

"And I was telling the truth. I hadn't touched him, and had no intention of doing so. But when we got back to the office that evening, I didn't think about what I was doing and sat too close to him for him to ignore it. And he was too tired to care any longer about what I thought, and just looked at me, with the mask off." One look at that naked longing for him, and his own pleasant gentle attraction had mutated to lust. "I should have pretended not to notice."

"But you didn't."

"No." No details; there was no point in trying to justify his behaviour. "I sent him home afterwards, and spent the rest of the evening thinking, 'My god, what have I just done?'"

"You're an idiot. But at least you know you're an idiot. What happened the next day?"

"More or less told him I was sorry and it wouldn't happen again. He insisted that we might have been stupid to do it in the office, but I hadn't done anything he didn't want. And things went back more or less to normal, or so I thought." He paused for a moment, trying to find a way to say it that wouldn't sound like self-deception. "What I didn't know until later was that the young devil went home scared we'd blown the professional relationship -- and then decided to hell with it, and spent the weekend plotting how to get me to do it again."

Bob smirked unsympathetically. "So you hired a bright young scientist for his technical ability; but you couldn't resist having a bit of fun with the fact that he looks like a male version of the fluffy little blonde hired for her chest measurement and not her typing speed. And then the game turned real on you."

"And fluffy little blonds aren't even my type!"

"I know." Bob gave him an evil grin. "That's what makes it so funny." Then he leaned back in his chair, and sighed. "But clever men with similar interests to you are your type, Steven. Mark reminds me of you at the same age, though he's a gentler soul than you ever were. He's ambitious and independent-minded, but he's also content to walk three paces behind you, which is the combination you need. Both professionally and personally -- you can be a bit of a dick sometimes, and you need someone who won't let you steamroller him by accident."

And this was what he needed Bob for; someone who'd known him a long time and accepted him as he was, someone who was willing to tell him the unvarnished truth about himself. There would be trouble when people realised that this wasn't a casual relationship with Mark, and even if Steven didn't care about public opinion, he cared about the welfare of the company he'd built up. Bob could give him the second opinion he desperately needed. "But what happens if I'm not there for him to walk behind, Bob? If I marry him, he becomes my legal heir. If anything happens to me, he takes over this company if he chooses to and I don't explicitly exclude him. I hired him in the first place because I wanted someone capable of being trained to make major decisions in my absence, but I was thinking of the occasional short period, not a long term thing."

Bob nodded in understanding. "Is he good enough, and even if he is, will other people accept that he's good enough? Sarah might have been teasing you just now; but it is only his twenty-sixth birthday. He's too young, at least for now."

"But is that the only problem? I can't trust my own judgement on this; I want it too badly." He'd given up hope of finding someone to share his life. Then Mark had walked into his office, bringing him first friendship and then love. Now he had someone to love and cherish, but he was greedy, wanting it all; wanting a partner for the boardroom as well as the bedroom. "The only one of my own family who'd care about the job for its own sake rather than for the money and the status doesn't want it."

"Nikki's even younger than Mark, anyway." Bob was silent for a moment. Then he said, "He couldn't do it now, not without a lot of help. But he'll be good enough in a couple of years, if you give him the chance to grow. What does your friend Sanjay think? He was the boy's PhD supervisor, he's known him longer than we have."

True, but, "What Sanjay thinks is irrelevant. He's a hopeless romantic and he's far too starry-eyed about having finally married me off to give me a reliable answer."

"While you may be hopelessly in love, but you're still a hard-nosed businessman." Bob drained half his mug of coffee, then made a face. "Forgot the sugar. Wish my secretary was as efficient as Mark. You should let him spend some time here, and no, I'm not just trying to poach him. He needs some broader experience with the technical work. Maybe even give him a significant project he can manage from the office, if you can't bear to part with him."

"I can't afford to part with him." And that was the honest truth. "He's made a real difference to my workload. And my stress level. I don't have to deal with anything like as much bullshit now, and I've got someone I can talk to."

"I'd noticed." Bob's voice dropped almost to a whisper. "Does he know about your temper, Steven?"

A very euphemistic way of putting it. But then, none of the few people who knew about his problem ever discussed it where they might conceivably be overheard. "He knows. First time he came home with me was the night we got back from that accident investigation panel a couple of months ago. Couldn't sleep, and I lost it." He'd slipped into a manic state during the night, anger roiling inside him and looking for an easy outlet. And he'd snarled at Mark without reason the next morning, simply because he was there. He flinched inside at the memory of the hurt shock on Mark's face. "Only words, Bob, I'd never physically hurt someone; but words can hurt as well."

Bob looked at him silently for a long moment. Finally he said, "If he's tough enough to deal with that, he's tough enough to deal with the people who'll try to push him out if anything happens to you. Mark's smart enough to get the right sort of help, if you're incapacitated while he's still not up to doing the job by himself. And you know I'll back him if push comes to shove. He'll have problems with people who think he's a lightweight who only married you for the money, but anyone you married would be in that position. Too many people are used to thinking of you as the eternal bachelor."

"Thanks, Bob. I never wanted to push you out of the deputy role; you were always my first choice if I needed someone to take over. But we're both getting older."

Bob shook his head. "I'd rather be doing the job I've already got. If I'm needed, I'll take over for you, but I wouldn't enjoy it the way you do. Have you discussed this with Mark yet?"

"No. I don't want to talk to him about it until we're sure we can make this relationship work out of the office. It'll put too much pressure on him. But I needed to be sure I'm doing the right thing. Because once we go public about planning to make it a legal partnership..."

"A significant change in what happens to the company if anything happens to you?" Bob said. "You may be the majority shareholder, but it's still a legitimate piece of business data for anyone thinking of doing business with us, however intrusive it may feel."

He knew that, but he didn't have to like it. One good thing with the long engagement while they waited for the law to change; it gave them breathing space before it would occur to anyone to ask what their plans were. "At least I've had a chance to talk things over with you without drawing attention to it. And we've still got some time left for that sitting over a drink together before I have to go for my train."

Chapter 2

The train was a little late, but Steven was still back in the office by five thirty. When he pushed the door open, he found Mark standing by the window, watching the cityscape as he often did when he had a free moment. Mark was silhouetted against the sky, showing off his slim figure, and emphasising the halo of blond hair. Not Steven's usual physical type, even if he appreciated Mark considered as scenery. Or so he'd thought, and thus left himself wide open to more subtle temptations than a pretty face. Now he felt a surge of lust; not overwhelming, but enough to give him more than intellectual pleasure in the view.

Mark turned to look at him, and smiled. Then he turned back to look at the street below. "The half five contingent are just leaving."

"Sorry. The train was a bit late. I could have caught an earlier one, but I thought there was time to sit and have a drink with Bob." He set his briefcase down on Mark's desk and went to join Mark at the window. "Shouldn't have, on your birthday."

"Yes, you should. You don't often get a chance to sit and talk with Bob about the good old days."

He put his arms around Mark, and hugged him tightly for a moment. "Happy birthday anyway. Did you like your present?" Of course, one of the other perks of having a PA was supposed to be being able to dump the job of buying birthday presents for a wife or girlfriend on someone else, but Steven was glad enough of the opportunity to buy a boyfriend a birthday present.

"Mmm." Mark gave him a quick kiss. "How did you know to get those DVDs? They weren't on my Amazon wish list."

"Easy. Took a look at what sort of things you seemed to be looking for, looked at the 'people who bought this also bought these' section for ideas, and emailed one of your friends to check that you didn't already have them." He could have afforded something far more expensive without even thinking about it, but he didn't want to make Mark feel he had to buy expensive presents in return. And the box set was a TV show he'd thought Mark would like to have.

Though he'd indulged himself just a little with the other half of the present. The cufflinks were sterling silver and weren't massively expensive as such things went, but they were excellent quality. "And the cufflinks?"

"Are perfect." Mark grinned at him, and stepped back. Steven let go of him so that he could move away, and he snapped one arm down to display the cuff of his shirt. "Only you would think to buy me cufflinks with the caffeine molecule engraved on them."

"They seemed very you, somehow. And since you can't wear teeshirts with chemistry jokes around the office, something along the same lines for a suit sounded fun."

"They are fun. I'm going to sit in meetings and see who notices. It'll be one way to tell the chemists from the MBAs."

"Don't mock MBA courses, my lad. They can be an excellent education in business management. The problem is people who think that's all you need to know about running a business." In fact, at some point he was going to have to do without Mark long enough to let Mark do at least some short courses in business management. The conversation with Bob had convinced him of that.

"I know. It's just that I've met some of the latter. It doesn't matter to them what they're selling and they think that all businesses can be run in the same way, with the people as interchangeable as the product. Yes, we need to be run efficiently to stay in business, but people like you and Bob care."

Dear god, had he ever been that young and idealistic? He supposed he must have been, or it wouldn't matter to him quite so much that Mark was. "In the end, we need to make money or we go under. But I didn't go into business for myself just to make money." He stroked Mark's neck. "Though I've got a better idea now of why some of my opposite numbers behave the way they do. I'm feeling a horribly primitive urge to cover you in very expensive and tastefully flashy jewellery for your birthday." Mark would look good in a delicate gold necklace, though there wasn't much opportunity for men to wear one with a suit and tie. The straight men buying diamonds for their mistresses had an advantage over him there.

Mark grinned at him. "Status display? Me and the jewellery? You're not getting male menopausal, are you?"

"Don't think so. Just possessive. Pity you're not into jewellery. I'll have to find some other way to label you as my toyboy."

Mark shrugged. "It's not even that I dislike it, because I do like it. But years of lab work where it wasn't a good idea to wear jewellery have conditioned me. You could buy me something I loved, and I'd probably still forget to wear it. Sorry." He put his arms around Steven and leaned his head on his shoulder. "Now the cufflinks -- they're good. I do wear those. You can buy me as many pairs of cufflinks as you like."

Steven held Mark and rubbed his cheek a little against soft blond hair. He still wanted to buy a necklace to match that golden colour, but was glad he'd resisted the temptation. He'd pleased Mark with the cufflinks. "I know you like nice cufflinks; I've seen you wearing them." And hadn't seen Mark wearing much else in the way of jewellery. Even Mark's watch was a pragmatically cheap digital that could double as a lab stopwatch and wouldn't cost much to replace if it snagged in machinery.

Of course, that could have been just that Mark thought jewellery inappropriate for the office, but Steven had guessed that it was for the same reason he himself didn't often wear jewellery. "And I know what you mean about feeling odd if you wear something around your wrist or neck. I still get it now and then, and I've been out of the lab a lot longer than you have."

"When you've had the lecture every year from high school on about not wearing dangly things... And then one of my friends at university had an accident with spilling mercury on her engagement ring, and that really drove home the message that even if you don't get damaged, the jewellery might."

"Ow." He winced in sympathy; it wouldn't have been much fun for the woman to discover that the mercury had amalgamated itself with the surface of her ring. "Won't stop me buying you a good wedding ring, though. You'll just have to remember to take it off if you're doing anything in the lab."

"Be a while yet before you can make an honest man of me, boss."

"In the meantime I'll just have to take shameless advantage of you." Mark's body pressed up against his was having a predictable effect, and one of the good things about having gone public was that they didn't have to worry about locking the door first before even a kiss. He had plans for after dinner, but a little something now would be nice. "Mark?"

Mark looked up at him, and he slid his hand up behind Mark's head to hold him in place for a deep kiss. One of the more entertaining things about having a much younger partner was how wonderfully reliable some of his buttons were. One good hard assertive kiss, and Mark's cock was hard instantly. Whenever Steven wanted reassurance that Mark really wanted him right then and there and wasn't just being polite, that was enough to do it.

It was also fun to tease him sometimes, though one of the benefits of a much younger partner who had a genuine taste for older men was that Mark had already learnt how to wait and take things slowly by the time he'd come to Steven. Most of the time, at least. This would be just enough to keep him thinking about it over dinner. Holding him tightly, kissing him hard, but not trying to drive him past the point of no return. Steven's own desire was easily kept under control; he was enjoying this immensely, but he didn't need to take it any further just yet. It was easy to simply enjoy the taste and feel of Mark against him; the way Mark stiffened and then clutched at him.

He'd be in for a lecture when he let go, at least once Mark had recovered his breath. But if there'd been anything urgent for Mark to tell him, Mark would have already said, so distracting him for a bit wouldn't matter. And if Mark had to wait until after dinner for release, he'd enjoy that release all the more for the anticipation.

Finally he let go, at least of Mark's mouth. But rather than let go of Mark altogether, he put both arms around his waist, holding him loosely.

Mark glared at him. "That's not fair."

"No, it isn't," he agreed. "But it's fun."

"And I suppose you're now going to expect a report on the day's work before we finish, even though you've just deliberately distracted me."

"That's what you get for screwing the boss," he said cheerfully. "Business before pleasure, isn't that what you always say?"

Mark slid one hand down to cup Steven's cock. "That's not what you said last week."

A hand on his cock felt nice, but he could ignore it for now. "Last week I wasn't taking you out for dinner and then home to bed afterwards. It was then and there, or not at all." He shrugged. "Besides, this afternoon Sarah was cruel enough to suggest that you were more interested in the expensive restaurant than what came after. I needed reassurance that you love me for my body."

"Bollocks. You know damn well I think you're hot." Mark hugged him again, then put one hand up to caress his face. "Though one of the reasons I love you as well as lust after you is that you do care whether I'm interested or not."

"Well, she was teasing. And she says happy birthday."

"Good." Mark let go of him and stepped back a pace. "How did the meeting go?"

"Very well. They liked our facilities and they're going to outsource some of their development work to us." With any luck it would lead to a piece of the production work later on, which was why it was well worth his time. Though, "They didn't really need me there. It's not as if I've done any of the ideas generation in the last few years."

"That's being a little too modest, even if you mostly do the broad picture stuff now. Besides, you're still the name people associate with the bright ideas." Mark ran his fingertip down the bridge of Steven's nose. "And the face. Bob says that for someone who isn't the least bit vain, you were astonishingly ruthless about using your looks to charm people you needed to influence for the business."

"I'd have been stupid not to use an asset I had. And equally stupid to think it the most important asset I could have." It had certainly been part of Mark's initial attraction to him, but it would never have been enough by itself. "How was your day?"

"Same as ever. Though I did get a phone call that I think was a covert job offer. Someone either hasn't heard or doesn't quite believe that I'm not a good target for bribery and corruption."

Interesting. "So was it head-hunting for a real job because they think you're talent they want, or a fishing expedition for someone with inside knowledge of our business?"

"Not sure. Maybe just a probe to test how solid our non-business relationship is. But whatever was going on, I think he saw me as a slightly naive scientist, rather than an airhead." Mark grinned. "I think you can assume word's got around that I'm brighter than I look."

"It's a shame in some ways." It had been very useful to have people underestimate Mark, especially the ones who were foolish enough to assume he couldn't understand cryptic references to current research. "But you must be getting tired of it, and we've had a fair bit of mileage out of it." He glanced at his watch. "Anything you need to tell me about that won't wait until tomorrow?"

"No. But we've got plenty of time to go through the post if you'd rather go straight to the restaurant from here instead of going home first to change."

"You don't mind?" he asked. This was supposed to be a night out for Mark, not an extra-long working day.

Mark pointed down and out of the window. "It's still rush hour. Means we'll need to keep an eye on our briefcases in the restaurant, but at least we won't be playing sardines on the Tube or sitting in a taxi in a traffic jam."

"In that case..." He had a razor in his desk, so he could touch up on the shave without going home first, and there was no particular need to change. "But you're still going to have to wait until after dinner for the non-work activities."

"Wouldn't dream of expecting you to throw me over that desk and shag me right in the office." Pause. "Not when we've got a perfectly comfortable bed to go to."

"Quite." He patted Mark's cock briefly. "That can wait. Now go and get that post."

As Mark walked towards the desk and leaned over it, Steven enjoyed the view. After all, he'd never expected to have more than an intellectual appreciation of a PA with a shapely arse, so he might as well make the most of it now that he could be an evil old lech of a boss.

Mark turned around and looked at him. "You're a dirty old man, boss."

"Just what I was thinking. It's wonderful to have a PA who can read my mind."

Chapter 3

Dinner was thoroughly enjoyable in its own right. They often ate together in restaurants, but doing so as a date was still a novelty. Steven had deliberately picked a restaurant he knew and liked, but one he hadn't taken Mark to before.

Mark was still half-aroused, and not bothering to hide it now it was out of office hours. Not just sexual arousal, either. For a moment Steven saw him as a stranger might -- a beautiful young man, face alight with happiness, looking forward to a good evening with company he enjoyed.

Nor was he keeping it purely for Steven. He shamelessly enjoyed having a good-looking waiter fussing over him as they got settled in at the table. Steven watched in amusement, and once they had been left in peace with their menus, said, "Good thing I'm not really insecure."

"I might as well enjoy the attention." Mark smiled at him. "Especially when I know I've got you to go home with afterwards."

The difference between the way Mark had smiled at the waiter and the way Mark was smiling now said everything. The waiter was a moment's brief pleasure, cheerful acknowledgement of attraction in passing. Steven was the one Mark loved.

This was one of the things that made it so good to be good friends as well as being in love. They could share the sensual pleasures they liked, including looking at attractive men.

And good food and wine, of course. The food was superb, the wine was excellent, and they had just the right amount of each to enjoy without spoiling the rest of the evening. At least until the large slice of very rich chocolate cake with a candle in the top appeared. Mark stared at it, and said, "Oh god, I can't eat all that!"

Steven looked at the waiter. "We didn't order that, did we?"

The waiter shrugged, and said, "You mentioned birthday cake when booking." He set down two spoons, one either side of the plate. He said to Mark, "Doctor Frost likes sweet things. I'm sure he'll be happy to help you finish off. But don't worry if you can't."

Steven and Mark looked at each other. Then Mark started grinning. "I'm sure he will. Were we that obvious?"

The waiter smiled slightly, and said, "No. Or I would have been more obvious. Please enjoy your birthday... cake."

When the waiter had gone, Steven said, "That was the universe paying me back for getting you over-excited before we came out. He's never flirted with me."

"Were we being that obviously soppy?"

"I don't think so." Although admittedly there'd been rather a lot of only having eyes for each other. "But it's time we were, so I will help you dispose of that cake."

The cake was good. So was Mark saying afterwards as they collected their coats, "You've got chocolate icing round your mouth, boss," and wiping Steven's mouth clean with a quickly licked thumb. The simple intimacy of the act was more erotic than if Mark had been obvious and used it as an excuse to kiss him; and that was before Mark unselfconsciously stuck his thumb in his own mouth for a second to suck it clean.

Now he didn't want to wait any longer for the last part of the planned evening; but he contented himself in the taxi with putting an arm around Mark's shoulders. He ignored the old-fashioned look the driver gave them in the mirror. He wasn't planning on having his way with Mark there and then, whatever the man might think. The familiar faint prick of anger stirred in the depths of his mind, but he easily pushed it away. It was just the usual background level he'd lived with for years, not the warning sign that there might be trouble in the next few hours. Time to think about something else. "Enjoy dinner?"

"Mmm. Bit upmarket for every day, but a good one for special occasions." Mark leaned against him, and reached up to take hold of his hand where it lay on Mark's shoulder. "Thanks for taking me there."

"I like it because the food's good enough to justify the price. I've been wined and dined at a few restaurants where they were far too aware of their snob value as a place to be seen dining." In fairness, it was usually because it was the easiest option for the person hosting him, rather than because they were trying to impress him.

Mark squeezed his hand. "Sometimes you really do revert to the factory floor, don't you? It may be fancier and pricier for you these days, but it had still better be decent nosh for a decent price."

"Well, I don't go for inverted snobbery, either. Refusing to touch posh muck because I'm a man of the people. At least I hope I don't." God help him if he ever got that silly. Enough of his friends would be willing to royally take the piss out of him if he did.

"Can't say I've noticed you doing that. You know what you like, and if you can afford it you buy it."

It was obvious from the driver's expression that he thought that this might include Mark. Mark must have noticed. He leaned forward and said, "No, he didn't buy me. Watch the road, please, I'd prefer not to be in an accident, and we're not going to be doing anything worth watching."

The driver said nothing, though his ears coloured slightly. Possibly because Mark had managed to sound as if he really was more concerned about having an accident than about having an audience. Steven helpfully added, "He's an industrial scientist. He spends enough time giving or getting the local safety lecture on site visits that he's got it ingrained into him."

"Oh." The driver visibly relaxed. "Had a couple of high level coppers in the back of my cab yesterday. So I'm a bit twitchy about comments like that about my driving." After a moment he added, "And sorry about the other. But you see some funny things in this line of business, and once in a while the cops come around afterwards asking if you saw anything funny. So you pay attention."

"Good," Mark said. "Glad to hear it. But two men in suits and carrying briefcases?"

"You'd be surprised," the taxi driver said. "There are people with some strange fantasies out there." He shrugged. "None of my business as long as they're not hurting each other and they don't do anything in my cab that will get me arrested."

Steven couldn't resist teasing, "Now there's an idea."

Mark tutted at him. "Wait until we get home."

He ruffled Mark's hair. "That's not what you said at the office."

"If you want to be an exhibitionist, save it for the office," Mark said. "It'll give the girls a thrill. You know how soppy they get about how romantic we are."

"Soppy, hell. They're all about the porn. God help us if any of them ever manage to catch us on camera; the file will be round all the women in the building by the end of the day."

The taxi driver was still listening, but he was grinning now. Good. Steven wanted nothing to spoil the mood tonight, and a taxi-driver getting snotty about them wouldn't have been a good start, even if he himself wasn't in any danger of screwing things up.

Mark said, "I forgot to show you the birthday card they gave me this morning. It was pornographic. And it wasn't even a specifically gay one, it was the sort of thing they give each other."

"Just a full frontal then?"

"A very well-endowed full frontal." Mark turned to look at him, eyes bright with mirth. "There was a hand-written annotation to the effect that since I liked them big..."

"I suppose I should take that as a compliment." In fact, he'd never seen any evidence that Mark cared much about dick size, so long as the dick in question was used with skill. "My card must have looked very boring by comparison."

"At least I won't have to hide yours when my parents come round to visit."

Which had been one of Steven's reasons for selecting a nice, tasteful, 'happy birthday, boyfriend' card. He had enough to contend with regarding the age gap without giving Mark's family the impression he was a lunatic or a sex maniac. "Leave the one from the girls in the office. Though not where visitors might see it by accident."

"That's why you didn't see it -- I'd put it away to prevent accidents. Though I took it out occasionally during the day for a quick gloat."

"That good?" Must be, if Mark was serious about taking it out to enjoy during his tea break. "Then I want to see it tomorrow. What's yours is mine, remember."

"And vice versa." Mark gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "As soon as the food's settled. You won't have any excuse after that for putting me off."

"That's not what I meant." But as he'd deliberately aroused Mark before dinner, he couldn't blame him for the reminder that payment was due soon on that promise. Fortunately it wasn't a long taxi ride home from the restaurant.

Mark took both briefcases in as Steven paid the driver -- and Steven noticed the man noticing that Mark had a key. But the man said nothing other than, "Want a receipt?"

"No, thanks. It would be a bit cheeky claiming his birthday dinner."

The driver glanced at the door to the flats, and shook his head. "Rather you than me, mate. Young birds make a man feel good, but they can be a bit demanding, if you know what I mean. Don't suppose young blokes are much different."

"No, but it's certainly a lot of fun trying to keep up with him." It seemed an honest enough comment -- the taxi driver looked about the same age as himself. "Keep the change."

"Ta, mate. Have a good evening."

"Oh, I plan to," he murmured as the taxi drove off. He might even have done the traditional loosening of his tie as he went up the stairs after Mark, were it not that he knew how much Mark enjoyed loosening it for him.

Chapter 4

As he entered his flat he found that Mark had put the briefcases on the coffee table, and was just shrugging off his coat. Steven stepped forward and helped him out of it.

"Thanks." Mark took the coat and hung it up, and then did the same service for Steven in turn.

That done, Steven dimmed the lights, and checked that the door was locked. The rest of the evening, and the rest of the night, would be spent in the flat. It still seemed a little odd to have Mark here on a week night, even though they'd been regularly spending at least one or two nights together at weekends over the last two months. Week nights they mostly spent apart. Taking things slowly, carefully, as they learnt how to make this relationship work outside the office.

Then he went over to hold Mark. "Happy birthday, love. I'm sorry I couldn't be with you earlier today."

"It's all right." Mark hugged him. "Most couples don't get to spend all day with each other anyway -- and you were there for the evening."

Business had to come first, but if necessary he'd have put off anything but the most urgent meeting to make sure he could take Mark out to dinner tonight. "I know. But we do normally spend so much time with each other during the day, and I wanted to be with you today of all days." In part because of the demon that sometimes whispered that Mark wouldn't be with him come next birthday, that he'd manage to drive Mark away. He held on a little more tightly. "At least we had a nice dinner together."

"Mmm." Mark kissed him quickly. "I'm looking forward to my party at home on Saturday, seeing some friends I haven't seen for a while -- but I'd rather spend tonight with you." Now it was Mark's turn to cling a little more tightly. "That was what made me realise I wanted more than just friends with benefits. How much I wanted just to spend the night with you, to have you all to myself for a while instead of having to share you with everyone else."

"Tonight, and a lot more nights." If anyone had asked him a year ago whether he'd be interested in a man so much younger than him, he'd have laughed at them. But he had more in common with Mark than he did so many of the men his own age. More in common, and more reason to trust him with his heart. "Do you want to go on top tonight?"

"What, a special treat for my birthday?"

Oh hell. "I didn't mean it like that." But Mark was smiling at him, giving him a chance to explain. "Not, 'well, since it's your birthday, I'll let you even though I don't really want to'. Just... it's too damned long since I've had anyone I could feel relaxed enough around to even consider it."

Mark nodded in understanding. "It's not that you want a cock up you tonight -- but you don't mind it tonight, and even that mood's rare enough for you that you're happy to grab the chance to offer it to me without grudging it?"

"Yes. Because it's your birthday, but not as a special treat. Because it's a proper date with my partner, not just a quick fuck with someone." Nor just another round in the shared fantasy with a friend that wasn't quite separate from reality; but Mark would understand that part without the spoken words.

"I appreciate it, Steven." Mark brought his hands up to cup Steven's face. "But I think that what I want right now is for you to make love to me, slowly and thoroughly. It's my birthday, so you can do all the work tonight."

He could see in Mark's face that this wasn't just giving him an easy way out of his impulsive offer. This was one of the times when fantasy and reality were the same thing for Mark; being wined and dined by an older and more forceful partner had put him in the mood for being seduced. Not passive, or even really submissive, but wanting Steven to take the lead.

That was quite all right with Steven. His offer had been genuine, but his own mood favoured taking control. Continuing what he'd started in the office, bringing Mark to the edge and keeping him there for a while before allowing him release. He could do that easily enough even if he was physically on the bottom, but this way would be more fun for both of them.

So he broke Mark's light hold on him, and leant down to kiss him. Not hard and deep, not yet; but making it quite clear who was in charge. Holding Mark loosely at first, and then stroking his back as Mark shifted position a little to hug him. Down his back, and then over the curve of his arse, enjoying the way the jacket of Mark's suit felt against his hand. Then the change in heat and texture as he slipped his hand round and up, laying it against the front of Mark's shirt, his fingertips just reaching to brush against Mark's nipple beneath the crisp cloth.

He brushed his lips against Mark's cheek, laying a line of light kisses towards his ear, and murmured, "Better get out of that jacket before I rumple it."

"Mmm." Mark stepped back slightly, just enough to give himself room to slip the jacket off. Steven took it from him and laid it neatly over the back of an armchair, then took off his own and laid it over Mark's. There'd be time later to put them away neatly. Or they could just leave them there until morning. Then he held out a hand to Mark. "Come and sit on the sofa. Do you want a liqueur?" They hadn't had any at the restaurant, with the richness of the chocolate cake being more than enough to bring a close to a good meal.

Mark took his hand, followed him to the sofa. "Yes, please. The cake's more or less gone down now."

"Sit down, love. I'll get it." He went over to the drinks cabinet, and poured two small glasses of Benedictine. Something sweet and spicy to finish off the evening. Something which was an active pleasure in its own right, not just an excuse to delay things a little longer.

He handed one glass to Mark and then sat down next to him, putting his free arm around Mark's shoulders. Mark sighed happily and leaned against him, and they sipped at the liqueur in comfortable silence.

This was how it had been on the day that things had changed for them. They had sat together on a sofa after a romantic dinner in a nice restaurant, then they had made love on a comfortable bed instead of on the office furniture, and then they had finally talked honestly about what they wanted. It had been champagne then, and quiet conversation and a hotel room; but the mood was much the same. A sense of peace in each other's company, of things being right.

Though they'd been in casual clothing then, not business suits. When he'd finished his drink, he set the glass down, and then reached to loosen Mark's tie. "Time to get a little more comfortable."

Mark leaned his head back, making it easy for Steven to get to the knot of his tie -- and to lean over him and kiss his throat as the tie came loose. As Steven pulled away again, sliding the tie through Mark's collar, Mark lifted his own glass to drink the last few drops. When he'd finished, Steven took the glass from his hand and set that and the tie down on the table.

Then Steven undid the top two buttons on Mark's shirt, loosening his collar and exposing the hollow in the base of his throat. One quick kiss, just enough to taste the scent of Mark's skin. Maybe he should get that necklace after all; something that would be just for him, only exposed at times like this.

Then he stroked the side of Mark's neck, working his hand back to run his fingers through soft blond waves of hair. Mark was totally focused on him, expression soft, lips parted slightly ready for a kiss.

All his. "I don't care if it's a cliche. You really do look beautiful tonight." And as Mark started to laugh, Steven kissed him again. Hard and deep this time, thrusting his tongue into Mark's mouth.

Mark squeaked faintly, grabbed Steven, and held on tight. He didn't resist as Steven pushed him flat on the sofa and lay on him, pinning him down. Not even when Steven stopped kissing him long enough to say, "Nice long bout of foreplay tonight."

With Mark pinned beneath him, he could take as long as he liked. So he spent a few minutes simply kissing Mark before doing anything else. Kissing, sucking on an earlobe, stroking his hair, but not touching anything else. Then he shifted his weight just enough that he could slide one hand over Mark's chest and undo the next button on his shirt.

More kisses down Mark's throat, hearing his breathing start to harshen with arousal. Feeling his cock hard and straining. But still Mark lay back and let Steven have his way, not trying to push him to go faster.

Slow kisses down Mark's chest, pushing the shirt out of the way. Then lifting himself up a little and looking into Mark's eyes as he undid the next button. "Slow enough for you? Or am I too old and slow?"

Mark reached up and stroked his temples. "You'll never be too old and slow for me." Then he slid his hands behind Steven's head and tugged gently. "Kiss me some more."

So he did. Back to kissing Mark on the mouth for a little while, twining their tongues together; then getting enough buttons undone for easy access to Mark's nipple. He licked and sucked that into a tight peak, enjoying the way Mark moaned softly as he did so. Then he moved onward, letting his tie trail over Mark's bare chest as he undid the last few buttons on Mark's shirt. Enjoying the sight of pale skin just starting to flush a delicate pink. "Told you I'd rumple you."

"And you're still neat and tidy." Mark pulled at his shoulders. "Come here and let me get that tie off you before it chokes you."

He shifted position, propping himself up on his elbows over Mark so that Mark could easily reach his tie. Cock to cock now, and it felt very good even through trousers, though it didn't seem to be distracting Mark too much. He loosened the knot on Steven's tie with practised ease, and slid it undone. "That's better." Then he pulled the tie through Steven's collar, and dropped it on the floor.

Steven went in for a comfortable fit on his shirt collar and tie, but it still felt good as Mark loosened his collar. "Thanks."

Mischievous smile. "Don't want anything getting in the way of you sucking my cock."

"Patience, child. We'll get to that eventually."

"Mmm. We've got all evening."

All evening, and all night. Though they did have to get up for work tomorrow morning, so he'd better not make it too drawn out, however much Mark might appreciate being tantalised. He let Mark undo a few more buttons on his shirt, and then cupped his hand over Mark's cock. "I should think that needs some attention by now."

Mark gasped, and arched into his touch.

"I'll take that as a yes." He was aroused and wanting it himself, but not to the point where he had to have it right now. He kissed his way back down Mark's body, easing himself off the sofa to kneel on the floor as he did so. When he reached Mark's waist he didn't bother undoing belt or trousers, but simply buried his face in Mark's crotch, breathing in the scent of cloth warmed by body heat, and hot flesh beneath that. Mark's cock was hard beneath his cheek as he rested his head for a moment.

"Please, Steven."

"All right." He sat up abruptly. "Time for bed." He pushed himself to his feet, held out a hand. When Mark took it he tugged, pulling Mark to his feet. And kept pulling, so that Mark fell against him.

One more kiss, holding Mark's head in place with one hand, sliding his other hand down between the cheeks of Mark's arse. Rubbing the cloth of his trousers against him. Mark moaned and squirmed. And looked a little dazed when Steven let go of him. Good. "Come on."

Mark followed him obediently, holding his hand tightly and only letting go when they stood in the bedroom.

Even then it wasn't a quick strip ready for action. Mark undid his own cuffs, smiling as he looked at the cufflinks and put them on the bedside table, and stripped off his shirt. Then he finished undoing the buttons on Steven's shirt. "You're getting a bit rumpled as well."

"Better get out of our trousers, then." Steven pulled off his shirt, and then turned away so that he could put one foot up on a chair to undo his shoe. One shoe undone, and then the other, and he turned around to find Mark watching him with a slight smile. He could guess why. "I thought I leered at your arse, not the other way around."

"Just reassuring you that I'm only interested in your body."

"I'd prefer you to be interested in my mind as well as my body." He walked over to where Mark stood, and squeezed his cock hard through his trousers. "Though I'll forgive you for having a one-track mind right now."

One quick tug, then he let go of Mark, and pulled off the rest of his own clothes. Mark was hastily stripping as well. Not fast enough, though, because he was still struggling out of his trousers when Steven was already nude. Haste and lust were making thumbs of his fingers.

Steven knelt in front of Mark to help him out of his trousers. "Easy. Just sit on the bed."

Mark did so, and lifted his feet to let Steven help him. And then, finally, they were done; trousers tossed over the back of a chair where they wouldn't get too crumpled before morning.

"Into bed," he said, and Mark slid under the covers.

Steven glanced at the bedside cabinet, reassuring himself that the things he'd laid out that morning hadn't managed to move themselves during the day. He got into bed, and reached for Mark. Just a cuddle, for the first few seconds; Mark moving into his arms and holding him tight. Then as Mark's hold on him loosened, he took hold of Mark's cock and pumped hard, just once. Mark gasped and dug his fingers into Steven's back.

"Still want it slow?" Steven asked.

Defiant grin. "As slow as you can make it."

That attitude wouldn't last long. He would make sure of that.

Kissing would be just too obvious. Instead, he let go of Mark's cock and lightly traced his fingertips over Mark's lips, enjoying their softness. Then over his cheek, and carefully brushing his hair out of the way behind his ear. Leaning over him to nibble on his earlobe for a few seconds. Mark lay quite still, letting him do as he willed.

Then on down Mark's neck and chest, as he'd done before, but this time a very light touch of fingertips rather than kissing his way down. He focused on the way Mark's skin felt against his fingertips -- the very slight roughness of stubble just starting to come through under his chin, then the soft skin of the base of his throat, and the fine soft hair on his chest.

Further down now; not touching Mark's cock, but cupping his balls. Then rolling them and squeezing gently. Mark was starting to breathe faster again. Now Steven did kiss him; not to turn him on, but just enough to distract him while Steven reached for a condom.

He gave Mark's cock a quick jerk, watching the way Mark gasped and half closed his eyes. Then he stopped just long enough to tear the condom packet open and roll the condom down over Mark's cock. Another hard jerk, and now he started to think about his own pleasure as well. Mark's cock filled his hand comfortably, and felt good even inside its new coating of rubber. His, to do with as he would.

One last quick kiss, and then he moved to take Mark's cock in his mouth. The bedcovers had already been pushed down by what they'd been doing. One hand on Mark's hip to push him flat on his back, and then taking the base of Mark's cock in his hand, he sucked the head hard.

Mark grabbed his head, and tried to force him further on.

Got you, my lad.

He held his position for a moment, just to make the point; then he slowly eased more cock into his mouth. It felt good to fill his mouth like this. Rhythmic sucking now, as much for his own pleasure as for Mark's. Sliding it in and out of his mouth, then right out so that he could lick it hard. Back in again, and another hard suck.

A few minutes of that treatment had Mark wriggling and desperate, even if he'd learnt his lesson and didn't try to grab. Steven was satisfied that he could keep Mark on the edge now with just a touch. He sat up, straddled Mark's thighs to keep him in place, and took hold of his own cock.

He might not have had much direct stimulation himself so far, but he was already hard and wanting it, and his cock responded instantly. Not quite enough to make him desperate, though, not yet. He stroked himself at a leisurely pace, watching Mark's face. When Mark's breathing started to slow a little, Steven stroked one finger along Mark's cock.

Mark reached for his cock, and Steven seized his wrists, leaning forward to pin Mark's arms back against the bed. "Wait for it."

"God, Steven, I need it now!"

"All right." That was no longer playful, but genuine need. Time to finish this. He leaned down for one last kiss; then moved off Mark, and reached for a condom. His own fingers were steady, though he wanted it badly himself by now. Condom on, and a generous handful of lube squeezed around his cock, and he was ready.

Mark had kicked the covers right off, and was lying back with his legs spread wide, completely exposed to Steven's gaze. Completely open to him. It was enough to make him want to simply pounce and thrust, but instead he leaned over and sucked Mark's cock one last time. Only a few seconds, but enough to put Mark right back on the brink. Mark would probably come as soon as he entered him, but what the hell. It wasn't his birthday.

And then at last he got into position between Mark's legs. He rested the head of his cock against the entrance to Mark's body for a second or two; then managed to strip off Mark's condom just as he thrust into Mark. It wasn't needed now, so let him have his cock naked to the air.

Mark gasped and shoved back, but didn't come. Not until Steven pulled back and thrust in again, taking complete possession.


Tight heat around him, squeezing him rhythmically. Taut body beneath him. Damp warmth between them, and fingers digging into his back.

Mark crying out his name.

He thrust deep into Mark one last time, and came.

Chapter 5

It was good to lie on top of Mark afterwards. He would have rolled off after a minute or two, thinking his weight might be unwelcome now, but Mark clung to him when he tried. So he relaxed and enjoyed the feel of Mark under him; listened as their breathing gradually slowed.

Finally Mark's hold on him loosened. He felt limp in the aftermath himself, but he eased himself off, and went to the bathroom to fetch a damp cloth. Definitely his turn to tidy up afterwards.

A cloth run under the hot tap and wrung out was quite adequate for wiping Mark down without disturbing him too much. Mark was half asleep now, dozing in the afterglow; but when Steven got back into bed he snuggled up to him.

They ended up with Steven lying on his back, one arm around Mark, and Mark lying with his head pillowed on Steven's shoulder. Once again Steven was reminded of the night when they'd finally talked about what they wanted out of the relationship. So many months when it had been just sex in the office, as he'd started to ache for something more, and then the dam had broken. But they hadn't been wasted months -- there'd been time for a solid friendship to grow along with the love.

"Happy birthday," he said softly.

"Best birthday ever," Mark murmured sleepily. "Love you." Then he was silent.

Steven glanced at the clock. It wasn't that late, so there'd be time for another round. No need to wake Mark and make him take out his contact lenses before going to sleep. He could simply lie here and enjoy this intimacy for a while, before they made love again.

The taxi driver was wrong about the young being too demanding, at least as far as Steven was concerned. He had a high sex drive, and a liking for variety in what he did in bed. It hadn't always mixed well with his strong preference for monogamy. Worse, he'd slowed down a little as he'd got older, but other men his age had slowed down even more. Having a serious partner who could routinely keep up with him, even wear him out more often than not, was a pleasant experience. The prospect of twice tonight and then another go in the office tomorrow if they had time made him very happy indeed.

Scene break

Steven's shoulder was just starting to get numb when Mark finally stirred some fifteen or twenty minutes later.

"Mm. Sorry, didn't mean to go to sleep on you." Mark moved off him, though not very far. He left his arm draped across Steven's chest.

"Glad you enjoyed it."

"That was definitely a good way to finish off my birthday."

And Mark's birthday wasn't quite finished yet. "I like making you happy on your birthday. I'll have to do it more often."

"You've got another couple of hours, then you'll have to wait a whole year to do it again." Mark propped himself up on one elbow, and grinned down at Steven. "I think that what you really like about my birthday is that for the next few months I'm only nineteen years younger than you, not twenty. Makes you feel slightly less of a cradle snatcher."

"Five percent less, to be precise." There was some truth in what Mark had suggested, although it was mostly the power differential that occasionally bothered Steven's conscience. "But I think it's too late now to come to my senses and find someone my own age."

"Far too late," Mark agreed. "Shouldn't have told me you love me. You'll never get rid of me now."

"I was only looking for someone to help me in the office. I got rather more than I bargained for when you turned up for an interview." And whatever some people might think, he'd hired Mark thinking only of the best candidate for the job he needed to fill. "Hard to believe it's been less than a year."

"Mmm. I'd already turned twenty-five a couple of months before Sanjay sent me along to see you." Mark flopped onto his back and stared at the ceiling. "My god. I'm twenty-six. Into the second half of my twenties. It seemed an awfully long way away when I started as an undergraduate."

"You'll be thirty before you know it." It had crept up on Steven with great stealth and great speed, though thirty-five had been even more of a shock. Thirty-five had moved him into a different age bracket on demographic surveys.

"Don't think there'll be as many changes in my life between now and thirty as there have been in the last year, though." Mark rolled over to face him. "Got a new job, got my PhD, got a new boyfriend..." Mark lightly stroked Steven's chest, and his voice dropped almost to a whisper, "Got engaged. Never thought I'd do that."

Nor had Steven, though perhaps for different reasons. "I told Bob today. We'll have to tell our parents soon."

"Mine will be shocked. Not just because you're so much older than me."

"Oh?" This didn't seem to be just teasing him about his age.

"They've sort of got used to the idea that my boyfriends tend to be older than me. When I told them I was going out with you, they just rolled their eyes and muttered that at least I prefer men who have two brain cells to rub together. But they're not used to boyfriends sticking around this long." Mark sighed. "I was too focused on my studies to make much of a boyfriend."

Steven remembered that problem only too well. "If they didn't think that you getting your PhD was important, they probably weren't good material for a long-term relationship anyway."

"To be fair, I wasn't really looking for a long-term relationship myself. I mean, even when I met you, it was, 'Oh wow, why didn't Sanjay warn me that this guy's hot.'" Mark propped himself up on one elbow and looked down at Steven again, his expression serious now. "If I'd thought about it rationally ahead of time, I wouldn't have seen you as a serious prospect for something long-term, you know. Out of my league, for one thing. But you were seriously hot, and up for a quick fling, and after a while..."

After a while it had become something neither of them wanted to give up, even if it had started as a quick fling. "You didn't expect to fall in love, did you?" He certainly hadn't.

"No. Though if I hadn't been thinking 'just an office affair', maybe I would have." Mark laid his hand on Steven's chest. "I'd almost finished my PhD, I had to make some decisions about my career, it was time to grow up and start acting like an adult. I suppose I was ready to settle down; it was simply a matter of meeting the right man, the one I could see spending my life with. And then the right man for me turned out to be my new boss."

"I just hope I am the right man for you." Mark was the right man for him, he had no doubt about that; but Bob had been right to ask whether Mark knew what he was taking on with Steven.

Mark pinched his nipple. "No brooding on my birthday, thank you. I know you can be a prick when you're having a bad bipolar day. But your idea of being a prick is to take yourself off to sulk for a few hours every so often; and I'd rather have a nice bloke I have a lot in common with who does that occasionally, than some of the idiots out there." Mark slid his hand down Steven's chest. "Speaking of pricks..."

"It's ready for a second helping." And hardening in response to Mark's touch.

"Good." Mark grinned at him, and reached past him for a condom. "I'd better make sure it's properly ready for my use."

That sounded as if there was a shift in Mark's mood. His suspicion was confirmed when Mark took a firm grip on his cock, and gave it a few brisk, business-like strokes to get it fully hard before neatly rolling on the condom. Mark said, "It's nice that you can get it up fast even the second time round," and bent over him to suck him.

No slow seduction this, but a fast and thorough arousal from someone who knew exactly how to get him going. Fast hard sucking at just the right rhythm, the sort of thing Mark did when they were in the office and knew they didn't have much time, but wanted it and didn't want to wait. One hand holding the base of his cock, then letting go and pushing between his thighs to hold his balls.

He wasn't sure where this was going, and didn't care. Simply lay back and enjoyed Mark's mouth on his cock. Then Mark let go and sat up, looking at the result of his work with smug satisfaction. "That's what I like to see. Last bit of my birthday present."

"What have you got in mind?"

"This." Mark warmed a dollop of lube in his hand, then applied it to Steven's cock, as briskly as he'd stroked Steven's cock into hardness. Once Steven's cock was thoroughly slicked down Mark straddled him, grabbed his cock again, and guided it into Mark's arse. It slipped in easily, and Mark rocked back and forth a couple of times, obviously getting it placed just how he wanted it. Then he took hold of his own cock, and worked it hard as he bounced up and down on Steven. He was gasping in pleasure, completely absorbed in what he was doing, and paying no attention to Steven's desires.

The brat's using me as a dildo!

Well, he'd offered to let Mark go on top. He just hadn't expected it to take this direction. He laughed, and grabbed a couple of pillows to tuck behind him for support. Then he put his hands on Mark's hips to help steady him, and lay back to enjoy the experience.

Even with Mark focused purely on his own pleasure, it was good for Steven. Tight body moving on his cock, squeezing him nicely. And then there were the visuals; a beautiful young man having a wonderful time. The soft light of the bedside lamp cast a warm glow over Mark's skin, and lit up his face. What Steven loved was the clever mind behind that pretty face, but right now what his cock cared about was the external packaging. This was better than any porn film; this was real.

He could see that Mark was almost there now, that subtle shift in Mark's expression as he felt himself on the brink, the way the rhythm of his hand on his cock changed. Too soon for Steven to come with him, but Steven didn't care. This was good in its own right, and he could finish off later.

And then Mark grabbed hold of his hand where it lay on Mark's hip, and looked down at him. Looked straight at him for a second, and silently said his name.

Mark was coming, and he wasn't, and that was good because he wasn't too distracted by his own pleasure to enjoy Mark's. He could concentrate on the way it felt to have Mark's come splashing on him, sudden heat clinging and cooling on his skin; to have Mark's body rippling tightly around his cock, squeezing him in a way nothing else could quite match. And the way Mark was still clutching at his hand even though Mark's gaze was focused on nothing at all now.

Then it was over, Mark sighing softly and relaxing, eyes closed.

Now Steven did want to move; wanted to push Mark over and fuck him hard, or to simply hold him tightly. He did neither. He waited until Mark opened his eyes again, looked at him and smiled.

"Thanks, Steven."

Before he could react, Mark pulled off him. Another quick grab past him for something on the bedside table; this time a tissue, which Mark used to pull off the condom before dropping it in the bin by the bed. "Your turn now."

Steven resisted the urge to simply pull Mark down and fuck him, and waited to see what came next. It turned out to be another handful of lube, warmed for a few seconds in Mark's hand before Mark wrapped his hand around Steven's cock and squeezed hard.

One quick stroke, and then another. No finesse, no teasing, just a good firm grip at exactly the pace he liked when he was almost but not quite there. He sighed with pleasure and focused on how good it felt. Put a hand out to touch Mark's chest, keeping that extra bit of contact.

Then a little harder and faster, and he knew he'd come with another couple of strokes. "Harder!"

Mark leaned down and kissed him hard, thrusting his tongue into Steven's mouth just as he gave Steven's cock one last stroke.

That did it for him. He felt his balls tighten, and then it was his turn, his come mingling with Mark's on his skin. Mark kept kissing him until he'd finished, smothering him in sensation.

Then nothing but silence for a moment. Silence, and a warm body next to his. Just a wank, but so much more than a wank by himself would have been.

Chapter 6

After a moment or two, Mark sat up, stretched, and said, "I'd better get something to clean up with."

Well, that confirmed who Mark thought had been in charge. Steven rather liked it. His own preference was to take charge, but he didn't like a passive partner, and he did like a partner who could take the lead without trying to take complete control. Playing with the boss/secretary stereotype had suited him very well, but this development in their relationship was good too.

As Mark walked towards the door to the ensuite bathroom, Steven enjoyed the view. This was something else that was still a novelty, something they'd only had with the shift to a publicly acknowledged relationship; comfortable, casual nakedness. A definite improvement on the days when it had been sex strictly behind a locked office door.

Mark came back a minute or two later with a damp cloth, and wiped him down. "You could end up rather sticky without a wash."

"I know. Thanks." He checked the time. "It's still not that late. We can always have a quick shower, but I'd rather have a cuddle first."

"Mmm." Mark put down the cloth, and cuddled him.

A good day's business done followed by a pleasant evening out, finishing with a warm, happy boyfriend in his arms after great sex. Life didn't get any better than this. But it wasn't quite time to relax and close the day, not yet. "Don't go to sleep again, not unless you've already taken your contact lenses out."

"I'll do that in a minute." Quick kiss. "Want a night-cap?"

"No booze for me, I've had enough for tonight when I've got to go to work in the morning." But even after the sex, he didn't feel that sleepy. "I might have some cocoa, and don't you dare say anything about it being a drink for the middle-aged."

Mark grinned at him. "Wouldn't dream of it. Mostly because I like cocoa myself."

"Don't let me stop you having a whisky if you want one."

"No, I should leave it at what I've already had. Part of that growing up and being responsible thing." Mark sat up. "Contact lenses, for both of us, then I'll make cocoa for us. Where's my dressing gown?"

They didn't bump elbows in the bathroom as they took their contact lenses out. Mark didn't have to ask where anything was in the kitchen. Slowly but surely, they were learning how to live together as well as work together.

Scene break

When Steven woke the next morning, Mark was still sound asleep. He watched Mark for a minute or two. It still hit him at odd moments, a sudden realisation of just how lucky he'd been after years of relationships that came to nothing. He'd thought that he was too set in his ways now to adapt to someone else's needs. It hadn't occurred to him that there might be someone who could handle him as he was.

He couldn't take Mark for granted, no. But he didn't have to tie himself in knots trying to be something he wasn't. Mark had looked with clear eyes at the package on offer, seen that it wasn't all champagne and roses, and decided that it was going to be hard work but worth it. Nor was Mark jealous of the time and energy he threw into the business, and not just because they shared an office. Here was someone who shared his enthusiasm for the job.

And Mark made a bloody good cup of tea, too. But he was still asleep, and probably would be for another ten minutes or so, so time to get up and put the kettle on.

Scene break

Mark had woken up by the time Steven took the tea mugs through to the bedroom.

"Thanks. What's the time?"

Without his glasses Mark wouldn't be able to see the clock on Steven's side, and there was no clock on Mark's side of the bed. He'd have to rectify that. "You're not late, I was awake a few minutes early."

"Good. You've got that nine thirty meeting to go to this morning, remember, so we don't want to be late in."

He had forgotten, although mostly because he was still a little sleepy and hadn't yet thought about the day ahead. "No time for anything but breakfast, then?"

"You can have a quick one now, or a long one at lunch. Neither of us has anything scheduled this afternoon."

Pity. "That's what I get for fucking a walking Filofax. I'm not allowed to take the morning off."

"No. Now that I've got myself a rich boyfriend, I'm going to damn well make sure you stay rich."

"I'm not sure whether I should be pleased or worried that you mean that." Pleased, in fact. And it was a good opening for a conversation they needed to have. "Speaking of which, how busy are you this morning?"

Mark looked blank for a few seconds, obviously running through his schedule. "Nothing urgent, at least not yet."

"Then your job this morning is to start looking into business management courses for yourself."

"MBA?" Mark asked. "You were serious about that yesterday, weren't you?"

"Not an MBA, at least not yet, and not necessarily a full length course." He kissed Mark quickly. "I'd miss you too much if you were studying full-time, and I mean my PA as well as my boyfriend. But when I decided to go for a young scientist and train him or her as a PA, I assumed that I'd need to send them on a business school course or two. You've got natural talent, but it wouldn't hurt you to get some formal training in things like people management, or budget planning. I found it helpful, and there are short courses that could give you a good grounding."

Mark nodded. "As my lord and master wishes."

Something about Mark's phrasing niggled at Steven's memory. That wasn't a sexual reference, it was about work. And then he knew why it sounded familiar...

"You've picked that up from Bob, haven't you?"

Mischievous grin. "He does tend to refer to you in feudal terms. The lord who expects devoted service, but sees himself responsible for his people's welfare in return."

And where would a lord be without his castellan?

Steven had always had Bob to stand as his general, the man who marshalled his forces. Now he had his castellan as well, the man to stand at his back in case of need. Loyal, strong; capable of leadership but content to be keeper of the castle on his lord's behalf rather than trying to seize power for himself.

Leave it be for a few months, do no more than give Mark the training he'd need for the job. But all doubt was quelled now. This was his successor; his insurance against a time when he might not be able to meet his obligations to the people he led.

"Let's get breakfast, and then get to work."

As ever, my thanks to my beta-readers for their help on this story.

Comments welcome by email or at the thread on my LiveJournal post about the story.