A/N. This story, which I began with all good intentions has been an abandoned WiP for many years; this is all there is, or ever will be of it. I'm sorry. But it would have had a happy ending; most of my stories do.
Giles missed the sea. Ethan knew that, and wondered how he had endured the long years in land-locked Oxford. Giles’ first breath had been of air rimed with salt skimmed from the waves it blew over; air seasoned with danger and mystery...the gentle breezes that set leaves swaying in a graceful dance on Ethan’s ordered acres were scented with flowers and grass alone.
Ethan turned to study his home, mellow and welcoming, the red stone from which it was built glowing in the early morning light. It was an odd place for one such as he to have sprung from, perhaps; he recalled Giles once describing it, sight unseen, and stealing shamelessly from a gothic novel they’d both read as he hazarded wild guesses as to its nature.
“It has a moat, Ethan; tell me it has; one which hides a secret treasure and a corpse or two –”
“Most unsanitary,” Ethan had replied. “You are wrong and I claim a forfeit.”
“A tower? No! Dungeons! Yes, there must be; damp and cobwebbed, with bones in chains against the wall,” Giles said, when Ethan’s leisurely kiss had ended.
“More corpses? I seem to have bloodthirsty ancestors with terribly idle housekeepers,” Ethan had complained, pushing him back and straddling him with his intent clear.
“It lies at the foot of a mountain; craggy and bleak, upon whose slopes many have –”
“Picnicked?” Ethan had wondered, leaning forward to claim enough kisses that the discussion had ended there.
Giles might have forgotten that conversation, but Ethan had not, and he had watched, much amused, as Giles settled into what the guidebooks described, with rare approval, as, ‘an Elizabethan Mansion, bord’red on three sides by sylvan groves and with the gentle waters of the River Derle purling sweetly as it meanders through extensive parkland. A maze, well kept and Ancient lies at the centre of the Formal Gdns, which are reached through a Pleached Alley. Worthy of some note are the Royal Apartments, where, ‘tis rumoured, Her Majesty, Elizabeth once...’ with every sign of contentment.
Yet still, Ethan knew, he missed the sea.
He roused from his reverie when Giles called to him, and turned, smiling to shake his head as he took in the muddied boots and splashed breeches of his lover. “You look the most complete fisherman, my love. I take it you were successful and that the sacrifice I made in allowing you to steal from our bed before dawn was not in vain?”
Giles took his hand from behind his back and held up three trout, bright scales dulling but retaining enough sheen that Ethan almost fancied one still alive. With a faint shudder he stepped back, holding up his hand to ward Giles off. “For once, Rupert, I can wait to kiss you. Do, pray take them to the kitchen and come to bathe. You – how may I put this delicately, without wounding your sensibilities? You stink.”
“Milksop,” Giles said cheerfully. “Next time, I’ll rouse you, and you will come with me.”
Ethan stepped in close enough to lean forward carefully and brush a kiss over Giles’ mouth. “Rouse me, by all means,” he murmured, “but the only rod I’ll be gripping will be devoid of hook and line, and well you know it.”
The chuckle he got was good to hear, but even that brief kiss had left him wanting more. “Make haste, Rupert,” he said, striving to keep the sudden, sharp arousal he felt from his voice.
He failed, in part at least; Giles smiled at him knowingly and answered him, not in words, but with a swift glance up to the window of their room – Ethan’s officially, but his servants were more than discreet; they were loyal, and he could not recall the last time Giles had spent a night in the room allotted to him for appearances sake.
Nodding a tacit agreement, Ethan turned to make his way to their room but Rupert halted him. “A letter came last night,” he said. “From Wesley.”
Ethan leaned against a stone pillar supporting a froth of ivy and white, starry flowers in a vast urn and plucked a spray in full bloom, turning it over in his hand. “How is the lad?”
Giles frowned. “He says he is well, and looking forward to his visit here. Ethan, are you sure –”
“Yes,” Ethan interrupted. “I want to speak with him – with all of them. There’s much we can learn from each other and certain safeguards I can teach them. Young Wesley promises to be a more gifted pupil than you ever were.”
“Very likely,” Giles said with a hint of exasperation, “but you’ll not get his co-operation if you continue to speak of him as though he were scarce out of short-trousers. He’s a man full-grown.”
“I do hope you’re speaking of his years and not his –”
“And that is precisely why I do not feel he – they – should come,” Giles said sternly, cutting off Ethan’s jest with a hand raised in warning. “Ethan, I cannot endure this – oh, I’ll not discuss it here! Let me take these to Mrs Sinter and wash before breakfast.”
He turned on his heel, and walked away too quickly for the words of apology that trembled on Ethan’s lips to be spoken, his back eloquent of frustration and anger. Ethan bit off a curse and groaned. My foolish, unruly tongue, he thought.When will I learn to curb it?
Teasing Rupert was amusing; he rose to the bait as readily as the trout that swam placidly in the river, but on the subject of his relationship with Wesley, he lost all his good humour and Ethan, knowing how much the lad – man, then – had meant to Rupert, understood without being able to quench the jealousy that his comprehension created.
He liked Wesley, insofar as he knew him, but he was fiercely protective of Rupert, and the visit was more to reassure himself that Rupert’s heart was whole once more, than to teach Wesley tricks he would master with ease.
Sick with apprehension that his insecurities had clouded what was to have been a pleasant day, with a ride to the northern boundaries of his estate to show Rupert the remains of a Roman villa, said to be haunted, on the banks of a small lake, perfect for bathing, followed by dinner with friends on a neighbouring estate, whose library rivalled Ethan’s own, he made his way slowly to his room, pausing to relieve a flustered maid of her tray, laden with chocolate pot, fruit and freshly baked bread.
Pushing open the door, he kicked it closed behind him, setting the tray down and locking the door when he heard the sound of splashing water from the dressing room. Taking a cluster of grapes, forced to early ripeness by his gardener in the succession houses that were his pride, he walked over and leaned against the open door. Rupert had stripped off his wet clothes and was bent over a basin of warm water, a towel wrapped around his waist as he sluiced water over his hands and face.
Ethan ate a grape, tasting the sweet juice as his teeth burst through the tart skin, and let himself admire the curve of a supple back, and a body that the years had dealt kindly with; Rupert’s waist was a little thicker, his hair no longer wholly brown, but he was still possessed of the strength combined with elegance that Ethan had noted when he first saw him. Tempered by sorrow he might have been, but the past months had left them both in the flush of a second youth, as passionate and besotted as ever they had been, but with the maturity to recognise their good fortune for the miracle it undoubtedly was.
“Forgive me?” Ethan said, as Giles did not turn or greet him.
“For what?” Giles replied, tossing a damp towel aside and finally meeting Ethan’s eyes, his lips set in uncompromising lines. “Tell me what I am to forgive, Ethan. I would hear you say it.”
Sighing, Ethan ate the last grape and twirled the brown stalk within his fingers. “You think me jealous of Wesley,” he began.
“No. I am certain of it,” Giles said. “To say I think it implies there is some doubt on the matter.”
“You cannot blame me!” Ethan said, hearing the words as from a distance, dismay filling him as he wished them unsaid but unable to cease from speaking them. “I know what he meant – means to you and –”
“I love him, yes, but not as I love you. I cannot conceive why this is still an issue that needs explaining, Ethan.” Giles strode past him and went to where his clothes lay waiting.
“Tell me but one more time,” Ethan said, his voice desolate, “and – must you dress?”
Giles cast a swift look towards him and burst out laughing. “Ethan – if you could see yourself, love!” He shook his head and came over to where Ethan stood in abject misery. “You are a fool, you know that?” he said, his fingers busy as he made Ethan as naked as he was. “To need reassurance of a love that lies around you like the air you breathe, the light that comes with the rising sun...can you not trust what you feel, Ethan? Can you not trust in me?”
Ethan allowed himself to be brought to the bed he had left so recently and lay down, locked within Rupert’s arms. “I do – I just – God, Rupert, he was so young...I feel when you were with him, you were with me as I used to be, and now you have but this worn body of mine, and how can that not be a comparison you make?”
He received a look of stupefaction. “Ethan, if I understand you aright – and I’m far from certain that I do, for of all the nonsensical rigmarole -! you think I lust after Wesley for his youthful body and find you less attractive?” He took Ethan’s hand in his and kissed the palm before pulling it down so that Ethan found himself grasping Rupert’s shaft, full and hard. “That is from wanting you, Ethan, none other. That is what thinking of you does to me, every time I allow myself to linger on remembering your body against mine, the taste of your mouth as I kiss it, the look in your eyes as you lie beneath me, or I under you as we come. I will love you when flesh is weak and all we have are memories, but by god, that day is far from us and I hunger for you with every breath, Ethan.” Giles grimaced wryly. “And now you’ve made me emotional before breakfast, and that’s too bad of you.”
Storing each word carefully within his memory, as a miser places gold within a casket to touch lovingly in secret, Ethan smiled into Giles’ green eyes.
“Unforgivable of me to do that,” he whispered. “Yet, it’s brought us here and it seems a shame to waste such enthusiasm...” He nipped at Giles’ neck with his teeth, feeling the change in mood as Giles’ cock hardened still further within his grip, and he pressed forward eagerly, hands sliding over Ethan’s body with a familiarity that reassured rather than bored Ethan. He, who had once declared that a lover grew tedious after a week, unendurably dull after a month, could never envisage a time when Rupert’s caresses would not make him shiver with delight.
“And is my enthusiasm returned?” Giles questioned, freeing the hand he had tangled in Ethan’s hair and sending it down to cup Ethan’s balls, stirring them with fingers that moved slowly.
“What are you doing?’ Ethan said, wriggling against the insistent, gentle pressure.
“’Tis how you tickle a trout,” Giles said solemnly, his eyes alight with mischief. “A poacher’s trick, but you must have tried it as a child.”
“No,” Ethan said, “I can assure you – ah, Lord, Giles! What ill turn did the fish do you, that you tormented it so?” Giles’ fingers were remorseless and Ethan felt that if they did not move higher he would be forced to plead, which would never do.
“They like it,” Giles assured him, his fingers never still. “It lulls them and makes them sleepy.”
“Then I’d make a terrible fish,” Ethan said through gritted teeth, “because the last thing I feel like doing is sleeping. What comes next?”
Warm lips tickled his ear and he moaned as Giles sucked at the soft skin beneath it, feeling his hips surge helplessly forward, begging as his mouth would not.
“You hook your fingers in its gills,” Giles murmured, sliding his fingers up along Ethan’s length in a long, firm stroke, “and pull it from the water before it knows what has befallen it.”
“And does the fish like that?” Ethan asked on a gasp as strong fingers worked him hard.
“No,” Giles said. “It cannot breathe, you see. It craves, not air, but water, and the warm darkness of the river.” He slid down Ethan’s body, kissing him and letting his tongue paint patterns on the skin, cool circles that marked his path. “Shall I put this fish back, I wonder?” he said, tracing a final circle on the head of Ethan’s cock with his tongue and copying it with his finger a moment later. “Perhaps it’s not large enough to keep –”
Growling with feigned anger, Ethan thrust up into Rupert’s waiting mouth, his eyes closing as words ceased to matter and Rupert drew him in deeper, his hands strong on Ethan’s hips.
His last thought, as Giles made him come with a flick of his tongue over flesh his teeth had scored lightly enough not to hurt more than enough to be pleasurable – judging that to a nicety as ever – was that he would be very, very kind to Wesley. Then Giles knelt up and looked down blindly, face stripped of all emotion but need and love. His cock was hard in his hand as he smoothed oil over it, entering Ethan in one infinitely careful thrust and taking him beyond thought or reason.
The summer sun cast a golden net over their bodies as they lay entwined, murmuring the words lovers call nonsense on another’s lips, and far away, Angel, Duke of Liamstone sharpened his quill and began to write a cordial acceptance of the invitation he had received, addressing it to both Ethan and Rupert, in a contravention of etiquette made necessary by desperation.
“ – tho’ I fear you will find Spike much changed as he has embarked on an Epick that occupies his every waking Moment, until Wesley and I despair. Giles, can you not tell him that his gifts lie elsewhere? –”
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