No rights infringement intended.

No infringement of the following characters and situations is intended.
Warning: Rated [MA] Mature Adults only. May contain strong sexual scenes, violence, coarse language, drug use, horror and adult themes.
Title: A Devil and A Gentleman
Series: Sharpe
Rated: R
Disclaimer: Slash. Read it. Don't read it. Make an adult decision.
Characters belong to Mr. Cornwell. I borrowed them, he owns them. He gets paid, I don't.
Feedback: Nice, but not required.
Author: Tarnished_Raven (aka arden_elear)
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Notes: The man paired with Sharpe in this story is nameless. If you guess who it is, then congratulations to you. :) But it's not important; he can be anyone you wish.

A Devil and A Gentleman

Salamanca. 1812.

Outside, the blazing sun was well past its zenith. It trawled across the flawless blue of the sky and slowly began to dip toward the horizon, releasing the earth below from its fierce grip at last. At the top of the hill in the square near the Cathedral, shadows began to fall across the baked stone of the buildings and through those shadows men moved, delivering the last orders of the day before scurrying home to their billets, looking forward to the cool of evening and perhaps a glass or two, shared with a lovely Senorita. A false twilight settled over Salamanca and the square cooled and emptied, the buildings deserted.

Inside the English headquarters however, a storage closet still boasted occupancy. Sharpe swore as the papers he was shuffling sliced his finger and he sucked the wounded digit; the copper taste of blood in his mouth familiar. The sun had never reached this far into the building and yet the room was warm. Not overly so, but enough that he had discarded his jacket, confident of remaining undisturbed as he chafed at the light duties he'd been given whilst he recovered from his wound. He had expected to be sent off with his battalion but had been thwarted, listening in stony, unbelieving silence as Major Hogan had informed him of his new, temporary employment. But he was already back fighting, Sharpe had argued. He'd outsmarted the French, ridden against cavalry and killed Leroux; he was fit for duty. But Hogan had insisted that he take the month the doctors had recommended, had spoken to the Peer himself and now Sharpe was gainfully employed boxing up paperwork in a dusty closet in Salamanca in preparation of the next stage of the campaign. Sir Arthur had returned and Sharpe had thought to try and persuade him of his fitness, but one look from those intense blue eyes and the words had died unspoken in his throat. Somehow Sir Arthur knew exactly what Sharpe was about to say, just as Sharpe knew exactly what the answer would be. He'd returned to his papers, grumbling.

On the upper floor of the building another man worked on alone. This was his quiet time of the day, when all the officers and assistants had gone home and he finished the last orders blessedly alone, writing without flourish, too weary to be bothered with the finesse of fine penmanship.

He rose at last, stretching his arms above his head to ease the tension in his shoulders. Retrieving his jacket from the back of his chair, he slipped it on, not bothering to button it up as he headed for the door and closed it firmly behind him to walk softly down the stairs. The last of the sunshine beamed in through the glass of the upper staircase, dust motes swirling in the golden rays and illuminating the art on the walls and the statues in their marbled recesses. However he was too tired to appreciate the display, his mind was a fermenting brew of plans and requests and strategies all muddled together in weary disorganization. Some rest then, before dinner. Some wine, perhaps a little light reading as a distraction to clear his mind before turning once again to the plotting of wars and victories.

At the bottom of the stairs a noise made him pause. A thump and then the unmistakable sound of someone swearing bitterly, the words hardly discernable. Smiling, certain he recognized the voice, he moved toward the source of the racket, a half-open door at the end of the corridor. The sun had vanished completely from this part of the building and the small room was gloomy and dim, its sole occupant perhaps unwilling to light the candles and reveal the piles of work not yet done. Sharpe. Of course it was. Who else would be displaying such a brilliant mastery of cusswords over so trivial a thing as a paper cut? That he was in fact railing against this forced inactivity was obvious to anyone who knew him, however casually. He had first met him in India and knew him as well probably, as anyone could. Not that Richard Sharpe was an easy man to know and he had learned the landscape of Sharpe's mind as he had so many others, by observation and by study. Understanding men in all their guises and aspects was where his particular talent lay and was how he had come to both respect and admire Richard Sharpe.

Sharpe was that most dangerous of creatures, a determined man. Deadly in a fight and a true survivor, his continued presence testimony to his resilience. By rights, he should be dead. Gut shot and buried. Yet, here he was, swearing at papers and wishing he were elsewhere, off fighting the French. He stood, unobserved for the moment and watched as Sharpe bent forward and lifted another box of papers onto the crowded desk. Recovered, or close enough to it, he thought as his eyes idly traced the play of muscle beneath the thin stuff of the shirt. Back to full strength and ready to be returned to his battalion. Where he would no doubt get himself into more trouble. But that was all right. Whatever trouble he managed to find, or whatever strife found him, Richard Sharpe had those who watched over him, more of them than he would ever know. A privileged coterie of admiring observers who would aid, hearten, even rescue him if need be, all of them compelled by the keenest of emotions of all. Love him or hate him, the one thing they could never do was ignore him; Sharpe was impossible to ignore.

He should be back at his billet, preparing for the evening ahead, drinking his wine and indulging in a less perilous distraction, as he had planned. Instead he walked in through the door, safe in the knowledge that Sharpe knew he was there even though he'd given no acknowledgement of the fact. Men like Richard Sharpe were always alert to the proximity of others; he would know who stood behind him, despite not having turned to look. Sharpe stood very still, hands by his side, waiting to see what his visitor would do.

Silently he stepped around him, turning them both and resting his back against the wall, pulling Sharpe into the circle of his arms. Sharpe moved easily, without comment, the rules of engagement laid out long ago, terms accepted. He smiled when he found the loose shirt already unfastened and his hand slipped inside and came into contact with the warm flesh beneath. Sharpe sighed and leaned back, trusting him with his weight, his head tipping to rest on his shoulder. He smiled again at this mute acknowledgement as deft fingers found the dark nub they sought and drew tiny circles around it, teasing with practiced ease. His free hand played across the flat plane of Richard's stomach, gliding gently across the newest of scars to mark the body he took such pleasure in. Scars that, in his opinion, enhanced its beauty rather than detracted. The slender form in his arms was distinguished by its unique tracery of disputes won, of battles survived, of a life lived hard and fast and he would not trade the scant number of hours he'd spent in mapping it over the years for the softest of unmarred skins or the purest of souls. A devil and a gentleman; he'd heard Sharpe once described thus. And he heartily agreed. Chivalrous and principled, more so than many of the foppish dandies of his acquaintance. Capable of and more than once guilty of, cold-blooded murder, Richard also possessed a taste for vengeance that, when roused, could carry him past the moment where others faltered and failed.

His wandering hand had located and unfastened the front of Richard's hated uniform pants. Now the body held so firmly against his own began to tremble as his hands found their rhythm. They glided over moist flesh with unerring accuracy, accompanied by muffled groans and a quickening pulse. Richard tried to thrust and he forbade him with a hand placed to his hip, holding him still. He tormented his willing victim, bringing him close to the edge of release, slowing his hand whenever it came too near and delighted in the frustrated moans and muttered curses.

Richard could so easily turn on him, yet he did not. He remained compliant by his own choice, his valiant, scarred warrior. Demonstrating trust, hard-won and bitterly contested, in a scion of the noble class he had little cause to favor and a myriad of reasons not to.

Twice he bought him to the brink and then refused him and he would have gone on to do it at least once more but for the caution his mind urged. Concerned for muscles so recently torn and for flesh scarcely healed after being rent asunder by a musket ball, he quickened the pace of his guiding hand and spoke the only words that would mark their encounter, whispering quietly against the damp throat, "Come for me, Richard." And so he did. Freed of the confining grip, he thrust once, twice and then, shuddering and gasping for breath, he spilled, hot and sticky, into the hand that stroked him.

The cathedral square was alive once more as worshippers, families with children and soldiers with their ladies, made their way into the church for the evening service. He skirted them all, avoiding conversation by the simple expediency of lifting his head to the sky and ignoring any attempt to engage him. There was a formal dinner with the Spanish scheduled for later this evening and he muttered silent curses at the thought, found that he was wearing a rare smile on his normally taciturn face as he realized he was repeating the same cusswords he had overheard Richard using earlier. His mind was clear again, the cobwebs of the day banished completely and he silently thanked his Captain for the distraction as he schooled his features to their usual bland impassiveness.

Richard Sharpe. Sometime bane of his existence. At other times, in rare moments like tonight, his beautiful, bitter warrior. It simply made these secret assignations the sweeter. For where better to renew and refresh his belief in his own abilities, than in the act of faith Richard demonstrated by willingly exposing him vulnerabilities in their mutual expression of eroticism.

That was the reason behind his continued pursuit of their infrequent liaisons; not to conquer or to subjugate, although he did enjoy the risk inherent in commanding the desires of such a potentially dangerous man. But it was the man himself he enjoyed. For all his prickly self- consciousness, Richard Sharpe was a mirror of his own success and where Richard succeeded, so would he. Richard was his talisman and he renewed the bindings of their wordless covenant each time he sought him out.


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