Fantasia in Minor Keys by PoorQueequeg

Woah, this turned out a lot darker than I anticipated. Just so you know.

Despite the late hour and the winter chill James could not help but feel decidedly warm as he stood in his greatcoat under the portico at the door of the theatre. It was in part due to the not insignificant quantity of liquor he had imbibed over the course of the evening but more on account of the shivering female form that was pressed scandalously close against him.

"Oh, I wish he'd hurry," Helen complained, her hot breath against his neck as she attempted to burrow deeper under his coat.

"I'm sure he'll be along soon," James told her good naturedly, wrapping his arm more tightly around her and digging into his pocket for his watch.

"He's been an age!" Helen pouted, turning her face towards him so that her nose brushed against the wiry fuzz of his sideburn. "Who's wretched idea was it to go out on a night like this anyway?"

"As I recall my dear, it was yours," James told her with a chuckle. Helen groaned and turned her face back into his neck. James could not help but smile as he turned his head to glance up and down the bustling road. It was a Friday night on the Strand and the pavement was crowded with people making their way to and from the various establishments that lined the wide street, out for dinner or a weekend jolly or like themselves, to visit the theatre. Finding a cab at the end of the night was, as always, something of a challenge. "Look now, here he comes!" James told her with a gentle shake and Helen's head shot up at the sound of wheels rattling loudly beside them.

"Your carriage, my lady!" John bellowed with a broad grin as he opened the door with a flourish. Helen wrinkled her nose, her eyes misty and her cheeks flushed red from being pressed against James' coat.

"About bloody time," she muttered and stepped forward briskly, catching James by the hand and tugging him along behind her. John gave a bark of laughter and caught her hands to pull her inside and James followed, slamming the door behind him before settling into the seat across from Helen and John.

"Onward!" John yelled, banging his hand against the roof and Helen scowled playfully, grabbing his wrist and tugging his arm down as the carriage lurched forward.

"Oh honestly John," she chastised and he smiled again, turning his face into her neck and sliding his arm about her waist. She squirmed in his embrace as he began to press loud wet kisses against her skin, nuzzling the side of her face with his nose. "John," she protested, twisting her face away and catching James' eye. He could not be sure if the blush on her cheeks was one of bashfulness or if it were due to the vast amount red vermouth John had been plying her with all evening.

"It hides the taste," John had whispered conspiratorially to him at the bar as he dropped another measure of gin into her drink during the intermission. They had not been particularly temperate themselves and during the second half of the performance had descended into fits of hysteria, John's deep rumbling voice drifting across the stalls at a quite improper moment.

"I'm cold, Helen. Won't you warm me up?" John pleaded, pulling her close against him.

"Oh really," she groused and clambered across James legs to escape to the safety of the seat opposite. John slouched back across the chair with a huff of mock indignation and pouted. Helen sat up straight and demurely adjusted her skirts. "If you can't behave decently I shall just stay here beside James. He at least is a gentleman."

John let out a bark of laughter. "Oh is he now?" he asked teasingly and Helen raised her chin to look down her nose at his louche form spread-eagled on the seat before her.

"Yes," she told him, her voice lilting in a mockery of prudishness as she slipped her hand under James' arm and leant forward to place a chaste peck on his cheek. James merely smirked victoriously at John and reached over to clasp Helen's gloved hand in his own.

"Well then perhaps you had better marry him instead," John said as the carriage rocked on the uneven stone beneath. His tone was light but James could not help but notice the hooded eyes and the familiar lazy expression across his face as he watched them.

"Perhaps I shall," Helen retorted, snuggling closer. "At least he can behave decently in public."

"Decently!" John huffed. "Ye gods! There is nothing decent about the fellow and I should know." James laughed and leant his head against Helen's, raising his brows at John as he continued. "And might I add, as your fiance, that it was less than proper the way the pair of you were draped over each other in my absence. A less rational man might have cause to be jealous..."

Helen huffed in irritation and turned her head to stare out of the window. "It is you, John Druitt, that is improper! You are a savage!"

"Fear not, Helen, I shall do my best to protect you from him," James told her reassuringly, rubbing her fingers where she still gripped his arm.

"Yes I'm sure you will," John replied in a low, sultry tone as the carriage rumbled on.

It fell to James to pay the driver while John spun Helen around the courtyard in a waltz before leading her up the steps with a polka, her laughter loud in the clear, cold night. The three of them staggered through the door and Helen shushed them as James and John made their way somewhat raucously down the hallway towards the salon. "Do try to be quiet," she urged.

"Whatever for?" John said, lifting the top of a decanter to sniff at the contents. "Brandy?" he said, proffering the open bottle to James. James wrinkled his nose and gave a shrug as he ran his eyes over the selection of drinks of the counter.

"Is your Father home, Helen?" James asked taking a snifter and holding it in front of him as John poured.

"No, he's not. She's just in a fluster over the help," John answered as Helen stooped in front of the hearth and riddled the ashes with a poker. "Speaking of which, Helen, can't you get someone in to light that blasted fire. It's like the bloody arctic in here."

"Well perhaps if you would come and help me, I won't have to explain why I am entertaining two gentleman in the dark of night while my Father is away!" she complained, sinking stiffly to her knees and reaching for the tinder box.

"There is nothing to explain, darling. I am your fiance after all," John replied, setting the decanter down and stepping towards her with a glass of brandy in each hand.

"Well then, as my fiance, perhaps you might deign to assist me in lighting this fire?" she asked sweetly, craning her neck to look up at him. John smiled indulgently and sank down beside her, placing a kiss on her lips and handing her a drink.

"I say Helen, does the old man keep his study locked?" James asked, pulling the door open ajar and peering down the hallway. Helen flicked a lock of hair out of her eyes and turned to glance at him.

"No. Why?" she asked as she helped John to roll his sleeves up.

"Well, I..." James hesitated a moment before shrugging slightly and quirking his lips at her.

"He's wondering if there's any laudanum in there," John told her taking a sip of his drink before leaning back and hooking the scuttle in his long fingers, dragging it loudly across the tiles.

"Oh really James, must you?" Helen asked, tipping her head to the side.

"Well I shall need something to entertain me if I am to sit here and endure his mooning over you, and since you won't let me burn the midnight oil in the house..."

"The smell lingers for days James," Helen explained. "Do you absolutely have to?"

"Since when did you object to such things?" John asked as he stacked the grate with wood and coal.

"Since Alfred Shufflebotham's wife died of an overdose," she told him as James slipped out of the room. "Stack it up high, John, it's freezing in here."

"I think I should take an overdose if I were married to Alfred Shufflebotham," he told her with a grin, emptying his brandy and leaning across to rub her cheek with his nose, his hand sliding around her to grip the tinder box.

"Oh John, that is cruel," she chastised but she rested her hands on his shoulders and kissed him anyway. John held a match to the touch paper and flames began to lick around the tall heap of coal and logs in the fireplace as Helen reached for him again. John slouched onto his side and pulled her close, kissing her deeply. She sighed into his embrace as he ran his fingers across the back of her neck and began to loosen the pins in her hair.

Helen pulled back and smiled at him, sitting back on her haunches as John lay back across the carpet and tucked his hands behind his head to look at her face in the dim light as she slipped off her gloves. Slowly she began to take down her hair, the pins clacking against the stone tiles of the hearth as the wood began to catch with a snap. She smiled at him softly, her eyes slipping closed as she ran her fingers through her hair to loosen it and John reached up to stroke the thick mass of curls that tumbled across her shoulder.

"Take this off," he said quietly, flicking a button on her jacket.

"Alright, bossy boots," she replied gently and he leaned back again as she unbuttoned her coat, admiring the swell of her bosom under the bodice of her dress beneath. Helen was reaching to the side to drape her coat over the end of a chaise when James returned, a victorious look across his face and a small green vial in his hand.

"Here we are then," he said gleefully, setting the bottle on a small console table and reaching up to loosen his cravatte. "Oh you've got the fire going, lovely stuff," he remarked as John pushed up on his elbows and turned to watch as James removed his coat. He walked around the back of the chaise to the counter and picked up the decanter of brandy before making his way back to the centre of the room and perching on the edge of the seat facing the fire. Helen brushed the palm of her hand idly back and forth across the carpet and turned her head, staring at the heavy fabric of the curtains drawn across the large bay windows while John dropped their glasses on the table with a clink.

"Not too much old boy," John warned and James scowled at him as he took the dropper from the vial and raised it over their glasses one by one. His eyes watched the shimmering beads of fluid hungrily as they inched slowly down the glass tube to hang delicately from the tip for a moment before falling into the brandy, the brown surface of the liquid rippling imperceptibly in the dim light. John picked two of the glasses from the table and stretched his arm out to Helen, his gaze gentle.

"Oh if I must," she said melodramatically and John smiled as she took the glass from him and sipped it delicately.

"There's my girl," he said in a low voice, peering at her with dark eyes over the rim of his glass as he took a long swig. James knocked his back in one and sat back against the cushions with a loud huff of breath.

"Now what?" he asked, fingering the collar of his shirt and loosening a few buttons.

"Well, maybe you might play me something?" Helen said, dropping a shoulder and projecting an air of boredom.

"What happened to not waking the help?" John said with a smirk and she scowled at him in response, pulling few cushions from the couch and arranging them underneath her as she leaned across.

"Take off my shoes, you," she said playfully, kicking him in the chest and James allowed his gaze to linger on the slender ankle that was revealed as John began to unlace her boots. She hummed and watched through slitted eyes as John gently rubbed her feet. "That's nice," she told him softly, relaxing against the cushions behind her.

"Mind if I smoke?" James asked, reaching across the couch and digging his fingers into a box of cigars on a table at the end.

"If you must," Helen replied, lying back and raising her arm above her head. James took a cigar and stood, stepping over her legs and squatting down in front of the fire. He gingerly pulled a sliver of wood from the burning stack and touched it to the end of his cigar, wisps of smoke drifting upward from the end as it began to glow. Satisfied it was well alight, he dropped the taper back into the grate and turned on the balls of his feet. Helen had her eyes closed, her breaths long and slow and James let his eyes roam across her chest as it rose and fell, her bosom pressed enticingly over the neckline of her dress as she lay back on the cushions. John was gazing sleepily at her as his hands slipped up and down her calves, now sinfully exposed. James watched as slowly, John reached his hand further under the mass of crepe and lace that was her skirt and peeled her stocking down. James stayed crouched beside the fire for some time, staring at the scene before him as the coals began to catch and the heat of the flames warmed his side until it was almost too much. Helen sighed and opened her eyes, pushing herself sleepily up onto her elbows and he shifted slightly to find John watching him with a dark expression. Their eyes locked for a long moment before James looked away, rising abruptly and walking across the room to the counter top to get another drink.

"Kiss me," he heard the low slow rumble of John's voice behind him followed by the ruffle of fabric and Helen's long sigh. James clenched his jaw and gripped his glass firmly in his hand, pouring a few inches of the closest thing to hand and tipping it back swiftly. Taking a deep breath, he clasped the bottle and turned around, stepping along the back of the chaise to sit heavily in a tall backed mahogany armchair away from the couple entwined on the rug in the centre of the room.

Helen sat across John's lap, her skirts piling up around them and spilling out wildly on either side. John's hands roamed across her back as she pressed her cheek against his shoulder and turned to look at James with dark, sleepy eyes. He looked away and poured himself another drink, stashing the bottle beside the chair and drinking slowly.

"James," she cooed in a soft voice that drifted across the room like the smoke from the cigar in his fingers. "What's wrong?" she asked, her voice dreamy and childlike through the veil of opiates that began to fog his mind. He slid down a way in the chair and idly toed off his shoes, staring into the fire.

"He's sulking Helen," John whispered in her ear, her hair tickling his nose. "Why don't you go and cheer him up?" Helen pulled back slightly and placed her palms flat against his chest, smiling at him.

"Poor James," she said, sticking her lower lip out and pushing John back against the floor as she rose to her feet, staggering slightly as she struggled with her skirt. He chuckled and let his hands trail along her calves as she stepped away and sloped across the floor languidly towards the armchair. "Come along now, Jimmy. Play something for me," she asked, clasping his hand and tugging his arm as she peered down at him with a soft expression. James raised his head and looked into her wide blue eyes.

"What about waking the help?"

"Oh balls to the help," she said with a wave of her hand and he let her pull him to his feet. She lead him towards the piano, tripping slightly and he bumped into her from behind, catching her elbows in his hands.

"Helen's been practising," John told him and James turned to see him sitting upright again, reaching across to fill his glass from the half empty decanter of brandy on the table. James let her push him down onto the stool in front of the piano and didn't protest as she tugged the cigar from his fingers, jabbing it into a green marble ashtray on top. He stretched his fingers as she shuffled in beside him, the bustle of her dress brushing his cheek as she reached forward and pulled a few leaves of sheet music across the polished wood towards them.

"Fantasia in F minor," she told him happily as she spread the sheets out across the stand and lifted the lid away from the keys with a creak. "Zu vier Haenden" she explained taking his hands and placing them on the keyboard. "How's your sight reading?" James gazed at her smiling profile as she brushed her hair back over her shoulder. "Pay attention now," she instructed and he couldn't help but notice John's amused smirk as he turned his head to look at the music.

"It's too dark in here, I can't read the notes," he complained.

"John," Helen said in a commanding tone. "Fetch us some light." John crawled across the carpet on all fours and pulled himself up, plucking a candelabra from the mantelpiece and making his way across the room, stooping to pick up the tinder box on the way. His arm stretched between them to rest the candlestick on top of the piano and he straightened up, towering behind them as he struck a match and began to light the candles.

"Make a wish," he said softly, holding the twisted match in front of Helen's face and James watched her lips form an O as she let out a puff of breath. John dropped the match into the ashtray beside the crumpled end of James' cigar and let his hand trail across Helen's shoulder as he turned to flop sideways into the armchair, folding his hands behind his head and his long legs dangling over the arm as they began to play. His eyes drifted closed and he let out a long breath, his brows furrowing when James mashed the keys and a dissonant note broke his reverie.

"Sorry," James murmured.

"It's alright. Start this bar over," Helen told him and they started to play again somewhat awkwardly.

"I can't keep up with you, Helen," James complained and Helen furrowed her brow as she struck the wrong key again.

"I can't really...I don't think I'm in any fit state for this myself," she confessed, dropping her hands heavily onto the keyboard and the piano groaned with a loud dirge. She sighed and laid her head against his shoulder. "You play something James, you're much better than me anyway," she said mournfully. James tipped his head forward slightly so that his nose pressed against the top of her head and gently kissed her hair, the smell of her perfume filling his nostrils.

"Yes, James, why don't you play something for her?" John said and James flicked his gaze across the room to lock eyes with him, his tone taunting and a dark, knowing look on his face. James swallowed.

"Come now, Helen, it's more fun if we do it together," he told her gently, taking her hands and tenderly spreading her fingers out over the keys. She huffed slightly and shook her hair away from her eyes.

"Very well then, from the top of page two and one, two, three..." she said gently and they began again, a broad smile spreading over her face as they played. They struggled through the piece, fighting the occasional fit of giggles as they inevitably mangled the notes until John finally clasped his hands over his ears.

"Enough!" he cried, pushing up from the chair and gently flipping the lid of the piano shut. James pulled his hands back but Helen was too slow, sluggish from the laudanum and alcohol in her system and the wood smacked heavily against her knuckles.

"Ow!" she whimpered, screwing her face up.

"Oh poor thing," James said, taking her hands in his own and rubbing his thumbs across her knuckles before raising them to his lips and pressing a gentle kiss on her fingers. Helen pouted and stuck her lower lip out.

"John, you philistine," she complained shoving his shoulder with one hand, James still gently clasping the other.

"I'm sorry darling," he crooned, dropping to his knees and leaning his face against her arm with a look of contrition. His hands stroked gently up and down her back, brushing James' fingers where his hand rested against the edge of the stool. James' eyes flickered up and met John's dark gaze as his other hand moved down across her lap. John turned his face and peered up at Helen as his hand slipped under her skirt to stroke over her ankle and up her leg.

"John," she said in a warning tone, dropping her eyes to see the mischievous look on his face as his fingers crept higher under her petticoat.

"Come now, my darling, let me make it up to you," he teased, pressing his cheek against her knee. James swallowed as she squirmed in the seat beside him, pressing back against him as she shifted, trying to escape John's wandering hands. Her hair brushed across his face and he raised his hand to pluck away a few strands that tangled in his beard, his gaze falling across her chest to peer down her cleavage. John narrowed his eyes at him, his smile widening as his other hand reached down to shove her skirt up out of the way. He gripped her legs and tugged her firmly so that she slipped down in the seat. She yelped in surprise, reaching out to press her hand against the piano, clasping James' arm with the other.

"Really John," he chastised and John pushed up, wrapping his hand roughly around the back of James' neck.

"I rather thought you might be on my side, old boy," he said, his face so close that his breath tickled James' nose. James exhaled raggedly, his arm wrapping firmly around Helen's waist as he shoved John by the shoulder. He tumbled backward onto the carpet, his palms pressed flat against the floor and he glared up at them, breathing heavily. Helen turned to wrap her arms about James' waist and pressed her face into his neck, trembling slightly and James responded by wrapping her more tightly in his embrace.

"You are a dog, John Druitt," James said darkly and John curled his lip.

"Oh spare me," John said, his tone mocking as he rolled his eyes. "You've been itching to kiss her all night." James narrowed his eyes and raised his chin as Helen shifted in his arms, her eyes falling closed as she worried her lip with her teeth.

"John," she uttered, pulling out of James' arms and pushing up from the piano. John clasped her hand as she passed and tugged on her arm.

"Darling, come back, I'm sorry," he said in a plaintive tone. She twisted her arm to escape his grip and he clutched at her dress, trying to catch her eyes. "Helen," he crooned. She peered down at him with sleepy eyes and swayed. "My darling," he uttered and she let him pull her down to her knees, his hands cupping her face as he kissed her softly on the lips. She moaned, her fingers digging into his shoulders and kissed him back, wrapping her arms about him tightly as his tongue pressed insistently against her lips. James couldn't tear his gaze away as John laid her back against the carpet and kissed her hungrily, his hands rifling through the layers of her skirt as he hoisted it up, the skin of her thighs pale in the candlelight. Helen closed her eyes and twisted her head to the side as he kissed down her neck, stopping to press the flat of his tongue along the crease of her cleavage as his hands pushed her thighs apart.

"John," she protested ineffectually, moaning loudly as his hands stroked across the fabric of her underwear. He hunched over her and nuzzled the skin of her neck with his nose, peppering her collarbone with kisses as his finger slipped under the hem of her knickers. She gripped the back of his neck and writhed, exhaling a shuddering breath and staring at the ceiling with hazy eyes.

James swallowed hard, grasping the hard wood of the piano and swaying as a wave of euphoria swept over him suddenly, his eyes falling closed as Helen's soft sighs filled his ears. His cock strained against his trousers at the sound and his mouth fell open, his jaw twisting around and around as he opened his eyes to see John tugging Helen's sleeves down her arms.

"Oh my darling," John murmured as his fingers trailed across her exposed skin and she shivered in the cool air. James' mouth went dry and he smacked his lips, standing to stagger across the room and pour himself another drink. He leaned heavily against the mantelpiece and stared at his reflection in the mirror, his eyes wide and black. He teetered slightly and gazed into his own face, blinking slowly as the familiar sensation of blissful unreality began to set in and he saw himself grinning idiotically in the glass.

Helen began to giggle uncontrollably and James turned to see her gripping John's head tightly as he blew raspberries across her stomach, making his way gradually back up her body. Helen opened her eyes and stared up at him, a slow smile spreading across her face as their eyes met. "Oof!" she chuffed as John flipped her over and drew her into his lap, his fingers fumbling with the stays on the back of her corset and she reached her arms out towards him. "James," she drawled and he stepped forward, clunking his glass down heavily on the table before sinking to his knees before her.

Helen gripped his shoulder and pulled him close, pressing her lips to his insistently. He tipped his head to one side and let his fingers curl into her hair as her tongue snaked into his mouth, his free hand sliding under the edge of her corset to cup her breast. John chuckled from behind as he pushed the whalebone to the side and Helen sighed with relief as he peeled it away. She closed her eyes as she let John pull her petticoat away and James' eyes immediately dropped to her bare chest, transfixed by the soft swell of her breasts, her pink nipples tightening to hard points as they were exposed to the air.

John slipped one hand around her neck as the other roamed around her body to cup her, trapping a nipple between his fingers. Helen sighed, her head lolling back against John's shoulder as his hand travelled lower to explore the nest of curls between her legs, whimpering as his fingers brushed teasingly across her aching flesh. He pressed a kiss to her throat and locked eyes with James, giving him a languid, devilish smile as he pressed one finger inside. Helen's breath hitched and she squirmed in his embrace, moaning loudly as he began to circle her clit with torturous strokes of his finger.

James dropped his hand to stroke the bulge in his trousers, his breath coming in heavy pants as he watched John's slender fingers part the soft pink lips of her pussy. He licked his lips and John laughed again, reaching forward to grip James' firmly by the neck and pull him close. Their lips collided fiercely and James' gasped into John's mouth, his tongue probing the dark recesses as they kissed hotly. James pulled back abruptly and with a growl, shoved John hard on the shoulder, clasping Helen firmly by the ankles and pulling her across the carpet towards him. She whimpered and chewed her lip, reaching up to help as he pulled his shirt out of his trousers. John peered down at her face, stroking his fingers over her lips and she gazed up at him deliriously, sucking them into her mouth with a soft hum. John smiled at her and let his gaze wander slowly down across her chest as James crouched between her legs and hunched over her, his lips trailing wetly across her breasts.

Helen moaned and arched her back, thrusting her chest towards his face and James mumbled incoherently in pleasure as he sucked a nipple between his lips, his hands stroking across the tender flesh of her inner thigh. She reached up and buried her fingers in his hair as he moved gradually lower, sucking hard on the sensitive flesh of her stomach. Helen quivered as his lips left her skin with a loud, wet smack and James grinned at the dark red welts he left in his wake. John watched with wide eyes, a crooked smile on his face as his hand stroked idly across the bulge in his trousers, his fingers slowly tugging the buttons loose and slipping inside to stroke himself lazily as James pressed his face between her legs.

Helen's hips jerked up at the first touch of his tongue against her clit and she clawed at his shoulders as he pressed the flat of his tongue across her in a long, wet lick. James hummed in pleasure, his eyes fixed on her breasts as he drove her towards orgasm with his mouth and fingers, her hips grinding against his face as she spasmed and came with a loud sob. John laughed, a deep rumbling sound from low in his throat and he leant down to press a kiss to her lips as she gasped for breath.

"That's my girl, my Helen," he growled against her mouth and she whimpered, screwing her eyes shut as James gripped her her hip in one hand, the other moving to free his aching cock from the confines of his trousers. Helen scraped her nails lightly over the fabric of his shirt, catching the hem in her fingers and tugging it upward. James twisted from side to side as he pulled it over his head, tossing it carelessly to one side before settling across her, the rough fuzz of his chest hair brushing against her nipples as he held her face in his hands and began to kiss her softly on the lips.

"Oh, Helen, my darling," he murmured as they kissed, her fingernails stroking gently across his scalp as she moaned gently beneath him. John's eyes narrowed slightly as he peered down at them, his gaze drifting across James bare back to settle on his backside as his hips shifted and he began to rock slowly against her. Helen sighed and clutched at him, spreading her legs beneath him as his cock slipped across the aching flesh of her pussy, her nails digging into his shoulders as he sank into her slowly. They moaned in unison as he filled her and James pushed up on his arms, his palms flat against the carpet on either side of her head as he began to rock his hips gently. Helen chewed on her lower lip and reached up to stroke her fingers across the side of his face as he gazed down into her sleepy eyes. She smiled up at him softly and he turned his head to press a kiss to her palm, gasping as her inner muscles clenched around him, still fluttering from her orgasm moments earlier.

John swallowed hard, a strange sensation washing over him as he watched their tender exchange and he snaked a hand around to squeeze her breast firmly as they trembled from the force of James' efforts. Helen's eyes screwed shut as he pinched a nipple and James head snapped up to glare at him hotly. He exhaled loudly and began to thrust into her more forcefully in response. John smiled wickedly and began to stroke himself more earnestly, gratified by Helen's whimper as James ground her into the carpet, his face screwing up with exertion. John observed the clench of his jaw, the way his eyes slipped shut before he let out a shuddering, choking breath and reached around the back of his head, tugging on his hair hard. James' eyes shot open and their eyes met for a brief moment before he pulled back suddenly, slipping from between Helen's legs with a wet smack to grasp his cock firmly in his hand as he came with a shout across her stomach.

Helen twisted her head to the side blinking slowly, her face screwing up. She let out a sob and James let his head fall forward to gaze down at her as he drew deep, rasping breaths. John shoved him by the shoulder and he rolled to the side, laying flat on his back as he panted heavily, staring at the ceiling as John shifted on the carpet beside him. James pushed up onto all fours and crawled across the floor, reaching for the brandy and pouring himself a drink with shaking hands as John flipped Helen onto her front. She whimpered as John hoisted her onto her knees and buried his fingers in her hair before thrusting into her forcefully from behind. James turned his head away, taking a low slow drink as John began to fuck her earnestly, grunting loudly through clenched teeth as she moaned into the rug. Her arms flailed as she tried to gain purchase against the force of John's thrusts, her fingernails digging into the carpet and James let his eyes fall closed before reaching across to pull a cigar from the box on the table. He pushed upon his knees and turned it over in his fingers, glancing up to see Helen's face twisted in a grimace. Swallowing, he turned to the fire and pressed the cigar through the bars of the grate against the coals inside before bringing it to his lips and idly puffing on it for a moment. He inhaled deeply, hissing a little as it burned his chest and rubbing his thumb against his temple, staring down into the murky brown liquid in his glass as John let out a long groan and he came inside her, his face contorted into a sneer. Helen sagged beneath him, breathing heavily and John slouched to the side, pulling her flush against him before running his hand across her chest and over her throat to turn her face towards him for a kiss.

He met James eyes with a satisfied smirk, nuzzling Helen's hair for a moment before collapsing behind her with a hum of pleasure. James turned his head away and stared into the flames flickering in the hearth.

Later, as John slept soundly amid the cushions, Helen shifted and with eyes downcast, began to root around amid the clothing strewn across the floor. James sat on the ground with his back propped against the chaise, dropping laudanum into his glass with a sad expression painted across his face. He raised his head and watched as silently, Helen pulled her petticoat over her head. She met his gaze after a minute and his stomach twisted in knots as he stared into her wide, wet eyes. Her lips quirked upward nervously and he smiled at her gently.

"Helen," he began after a moment but she turned away, chewing on her lower lip as she gathered her clothing. "Helen," he repeated and she stopped, slowly raising her chin to look at him.

"It's alright, James," she whispered. "I...I..just think I ought not to be here, in case the servants come in." He nodded at her sadly and she looked away.

"Helen, I...I'm..." he mumbled and she smiled awkwardly, her eyes darting about.

"Really James, I don't want things to be difficult," she explained breathlessly. He set the vial down on the table and shuffled across the floor towards her.

"Helen," he uttered. "I love you, you know that," he told her, his voice so quiet she wasn't sure she heard it at all. She looked into his eyes deeply for a long moment, her face screwing up with emotion. She ran the back of her fingers across his cheek gently, nodding before pushing up and stepping silently towards the door. James stared into the flames and his eyes fell shut as the door clicked quietly shut behind her.

A/N Yes, it is pronounced Shufflebottom, and yes, it is a genuine English name. I couldn't resist. If you are interested, the tune that I was imagining Helen and James playing is Fantasia in F Minor by Schubert. Yes, I love Schubert that is why he makes his way into many of my fics. The German Helen reads means 'For four hands' ie a duet but maybe it serves as a teensy literary device as well. You can hear it here Part wwwdotyoubedotcom/watch?v=SzAx_IQydxE & Part 2 wwwdotyoutubedotcom/watch?v=o5UGWqCfmug