|lanternsdance (lanternsdance) wrote in originalbl,|
@ 2007-10-10 23:23:00
Once upon a time there was a beautiful boy who lived in the woods.
Alaric met Roe the first time he went into the Inn’s tavern for drinks. Roe, a hunter’s son, wore doe brown slacks with a hunter’s knife held down by his pant leg that fitted into his boots just so. His long black hair was knotted and fettered in chunks, causing it to hang in front of his bright blue eyes, and red, red, lips. The bright contrast of his hair and skin stood out against the dull colored shirts he wore. Those bland, tattered, shirts clung to his chest, tailored by a small leather vest that pressed in just below his breastbone.
Roe never looked particularly rugged, though he rarely came into town. His glass jaw, hairless face, and eerily pale complexion kept his gruff, uneducated, words from offending just as it kept most from guessing his true living conditions out in the hinterland that surrounded the city.
Really, it had only been chance that allowed a lord’s son and a hunter to meet. Alaric, though, the prominent young lord, had thought it was fate.
The second time they met, the redheaded lord settled down on a bench across from Roe, all shiny shirts and boots, and ordered another couple of glasses of ale from the Innkeeper near by. He had curbed his shoulders inward, bowing his eyes submissively, as though he were terrified of the simple woodsman before him. This was not surprising, it was hard not to cause the lord fright; Alaric was an easily cowed boy who was still in the awkward middle stages between adult and child. Two words from the Innkeeper less then five minutes ago about Roe being a loner and disliking company, and all Alaric’s stored confidence had failed.
“What do you think about joining me tonight?” It had taken Alaric two drinks before he could formulate any sort of conversation. By this point he had leaned over the tavern table in an attempt to look self-assured and controlled. His foolishly beaming face was flushed the color of his hair, though, and his eyes looked glazed enough to keep anyone from thinking he was anything but drunk.
Roe skimmed a finger around the edge of his mug, looking down at it as he tried to distract himself from his inability to politely excuse himself. He glanced up after a moment, not quite smiling. “Don’t think about it at all.”
The lords face fell into a not-quite pout, though he appeared only minimally put off by the other man’s reaction. “Why not?”
“There a reason I should?” Roe ground the words through his teeth, just barely keeping the least amount of good humor in his voice to make his words polite.
“Yes.” Alaric was almost giddy in his haste to reassure Roe. He thought the good humor in the other man’s voice meant a damn, and he reached out to grab the woodsman’s fingers even as Roe snatched them back. “Lot’sa reasons.”
“I don’ think there are.”
“There are. Come home with me.” Alaric didn’t know the meaning of the words ‘back down’. His words flew, greased by the alcohol he had consumed, and slurred into stumbling submission from his own erroneous expectations. “I can have a fire put on… The maids should have already seen to it. Come home with me.”
It had been a warm fall; the Indian sun had roasted the fields, and sent the town into drought. The townsfolk dehydrated themselves, scraped the bottom of the wells at each corner of the city, and threw all of their wastewater onto the burning crops and grasses outside of the buildings. Those with money ignored the warnings and put on fires, which threatened the fields further. They opened up their great halls and windows to keep the heat down even as they refused to reduce the splendor and waste of the hearths, and endangered the outside of their keeps with the possibility of brush fire.
“Silly, why would I want to come home with you?” Roe laughed disdainfully at him, and jerked his head towards the door on the other side of the room. The door swung open and closed in an almost hypnotic fashion in at attempt to push out the hot, muggy, air of the inn. It didn’t work. The heat had their hair plastered to their faces even without a fire brewing beside them. “You couldn’t get your fool-head through that door by your lonesome.”
“You may be right.” Alaric couldn’t stop smiling back. He tipped his mug up against his lips again before waving his index finger sloppily in Roe’s direction, causing the other man to smile in what the young lord interpreted as good-naturedly. “But even so, it’d be a night to remember.”
“A night to remember?” The man had shaken his head as he tossed a few dirty coins on the table for his own food and drink. He stood up and brushed breadcrumbs from his shirt and pants. “You barely keep your head on your shoulders.”
Even with no age difference between them, and money on the side of Alaric, Roe had seemed older to Alaric. He was more controlled, more self-assured, on a bad day then Alaric ever felt. Gypsy eyes, his mother would have dubbed him, with a bit of fey blood to give him a fiery temper that belayed his dark, dark hair. It had taken Alaric two drinks to talk to him; it had taken him two more years to realize that fey blood was, as they now said, just a fairytale.
By the end of the night Alaric had bayed for the man like a dog in heat. Alcohol negated Alaric’s fear of the locals reprisal, and any and all uneasiness associated with the assumption that Roe was older and, thus, inaccessible. All of this was forgotten in the heat of liquid confidence that paraded down his throat in a constant stream. Alaric’s money followed the same route to the innkeeper, who doused his drinks with a half a cup of water in response.
Roe had been right, of course. Alaric could barely scramble to his feet as the woodsman left, much less give him a night to remember. Protests had streamed from his alcohol-addled throat until he found himself slumped over the heavy wood table in the tavern. He had woken there the next morning as well, the table’s wood indentions branded into his skin.
Though low in status, the woodsman had many suitors.
It had taken Alaric maybe three weeks to admit to himself that he was not alone in his affections for the woodsman. Unfortunately for him, this understanding had to come from a relentless outside source: Tamson, the baker’s son. He worked for his father growing wheat, managing the fields, and delivering bread and pastries to lords and ladies on weekends.
Tamson was like yeast; he grew more boisterous and full of charismatic energy every time he spoke, motioning theatrically and capturing everyone’s attention. He tamed his corn yellow hair with a red ribbon, and claimed to shave with a rock, which explained the patchwork of stubble that couldn’t look half as good on any other man.
“I heard you been eyeing Roe down at the inn tavern.” Tamson gave Alaric a somewhat lecherous grin as he passed a box of bread over the threshold of Alaric’s home and into the arms of a servant Alaric was supervising.
Townsfolk had never once addressed Alaric when he was inside the manor. Having the rules of conduct changed on him made him bug-eyed as his face struggled to match the color of his hair and the carpet. “Should I be concerned with town gossip?”
“If it’s true.” Tamson’s right hand hung loosely at his hip. His grin persisted. It ran across his face and broke roughly over the middle, just above his chin. It gave Alaric the impression of a empty, unending, cavern. “You know you’re not alone in that. I be you’re the most bold, though.”
Alcohol out of his system, the blood boiling in his veins had slowed to a simmer. His head had long since cleared and reminded him that retaining his interest would never work well with his position. Out of sight, out of mind, though, didn’t translate to the townsfolk. A little drunk talk caused one to be slandered.
Though Roe, of course, could never be involved in spreading the gossip. The redheaded young lord could never imagine the man muddling through such a supercilious interaction that gossiped entailed. Granted, he didn’t want to believe the dark-haired man took up with someone as repugnant as Tamson either. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Of course you don’t.” Tamson winked almost flirtatiously at him, which caused Alaric to stumble hastily backwards towards the stairs.
“I don’t!” His ankle was caught against the bottom lip of the last step. He stumbled, and nearly fell backwards onto the stairs. He grabbed the rich oak banister and clung to it to keep himself upright. Alaric didn’t look up, he could hear Tamsom laughing just a few feet away while the servant he was over seeing looked particularly aghast. The servant, though, was really likely trying to smother his own laughter at the young lords theatrics.
“If you say so.” Tamson tipped his head at his lord’s son. “Try not to trip over your tongue so much, sir, some would say you’ve been lyin’.”
Alaric, flabbergasted, still didn’t answer. His flush had made it all the way across his ears and down his throat. Tamson laughed and bid him good day as the young lord let himself sag, long-legged, on the stairs.
They came from all walks of life -- the young and old, male and female. The woodsman, however, was shrewd and dealt with them all in different ways. One day, an impulsive, persistent young lord approached him. He decided to request the impossible from him, thinking it would dissuade him.
“What does your head think it’s doing all by its lonesome?” Roe’s voice came from somewhere above Alaric, though all the redhead could see was the collection of dried leaves and dirt that made up the forest floor. “’cause it has to be thinking somethin’ by itself it’s gotten you into this mess. Whatcha thinking jumpin’ into my trap?”
“Trap?” Alaric was flat on his stomach, face buried in the leaves, completely incapacitated by the combination of netting and leg trap. The netting had been settled on the ground, and was the initial instigator of his current predicament, which involved vines that were wrapped securely around his wrists and ankles. The quilt of vines and pieces of tree had made short work of his struggles after the netting tripped him up and caused him to tauter into the vine work and leg trap.
He could hear someone moving around behind his head, but couldn’t see Roe no matter how much he twisted his neck and arched. “Just get me up!”
“You shouldn’t twist so.” Strong, unearthly pale, fingers snatched at Alaric’s wrist and twisted. Roe made quick work of the vines, untying them, and then cutting the rest. “Silly boy, what are you doing here?”
Roe sounded almost concerned. Alaric clung to that fact even as he realized that he sounded more patronizing then kind.
“I was hunting for dinner.” Alaric would claim, if asked, that he was not trying to find Roe. Though it had been a week since he had seen the other man, that didn’t mean he’d go actively looking. Especially not if looking meant tripping over fallen tree branches, dirtying his clothing, and getting pulled flat onto his chest while wrapped in vines.
“You wouldn’t know dinner if it bit you in the ass, much less be able to shoot it.” Roe was perched somewhere behind Alaric. The redhead could hear the rustle of his boots against the dry underbrush as the man maneuvered him into a sitting position to pluck leaves and dirt from his hair as one might do to a child. Alaric thought the motion was forged from fondness, of a sort.
With a cast iron riffle belted to his back, one couldn’t deny that Alaric probably had been aiming to kill something, for dinner or not. The flaw in his story, however, was that it was a well-known fact that his family couldn’t hit the blind side of a barn. They never caught anything for all their hours of hunting. Servants had shot the mounted heads of deer and elk on the walls of the great hearth room. Those same servants never failed to snigger under their breath every time they heard Alaric’s father boast about hunts where he, supposedly, was the tyrant of the forest.
“I’m learning.” Roe’s motions belayed his sharp words, which then spurred Alaric to go on. Today he was going to catch something, even if what he’d like to catch wasn’t entirely as ethical as the beasts of the woods.
“Slower then a half-witted dog you are.” The man spat onto his hand and wiped off a smear of dirt on the young lord’s face, shaking his head slightly in wonderment. Lords’ sons, to him, didn’t know anything. Alaric was too busy staring at the woodsman in wonderment to realize, fully, Roe’s opinion of him.
“Maybe.” The words stung, but the motions, although he found the use of spit somewhat distasteful, were moving. Alaric’s voice continued to gain force and hope as he addressed Roe in the privet of the woods. Certainly here he could make some headwind. “But I am learning.”
Roe suddenly stood up, patted down his pants, and turned to walk away. The branches, dry from drought, snapped under his feet. “Good then.”
“Wait,” Alaric was clambering to his feet in an instant. This could be one of his only chances to talk with Roe for quite a while. Even if he couldn’t get the man to come home with him, then at least he didn’t want Roe running off so quickly. Alaric could never keep up with the woodsman here.
“What?” Roe paused, kicking up leaves and dust as he turned to send his companion a slow, lazy, look. It was reminiscent of the one Alaric often gave his younger cousins who were about to involve themselves in mischief. The glance said: don’t even think that you’re fooling me. “You gonna ask me to come home with you again?”
That stopped Alaric in his tracks. He was suddenly back at home in front of Tamson, completely exposed without any of his normal resources that would allow him to protest correctly. He really didn’t believe it was like that. His intentions weren’t the way Tamson and Roe spoke of them. “I--well, I…”
“Silly, can’t even spell it out anymore.” Roe hardly paused, face twisting viciously as his long black hair was whipped back by an Indian summer wind. Alaric wasn't picking up on what he wanted; cruelty was the only other alternative. He was a woodsman, not a pet or a future doting lover to a Lord’s spoiled son. “Need some ale to drop your balls?”
“No.” The young lord steeled himself, locking his joints and forcing himself to look up off the dirty forest floor. He stuck his chin out stubbornly and stared evenly back at the woodsman. His father told him to never bow to anyone. Roe was not just anyone, but he wouldn’t take him seriously if he didn’t respond respectfully. At least that was what Alaric believed at the time. “I’ll ask you as I am. Will you come home with me?”
“No?” Alaric hadn’t been expecting that answer. His knees unlocked, and he found himself less than a foot away from the other man in an instant. He grabbed Roe’s hands, trailed the pads of his fingertips over the other man’s calluses, and leaned closer. “I could give you anything you want if you come back with me.”
“Anything?” Red, red lips slowly crawled into the form of a smile in front of Alaric. Roe had a price, it seemed, though Alaric hardly paid attention to that detail. Instead he stared at the other man’s lips, the smile was crafty, small, and utterly sensual. “You know you'd have to pay up before?”
“Yes.” The young lord could barely breathe; he couldn’t have answered any other way.
“Alright then,” Roe’s breath, sweet from chewing mint and lilac, slid over the redhead’s mouth. Alaric swallowed, his tongue slipping out between his lips to taste the air. He almost wanted to try to catch the other man's lips as Roe’s husky whisper went straight to his groin. “Give me eternity.”
Eternity. That was what the beautiful boy requested of the young lord. However, the young lord was bedeviled by the woodsman and brilliant, and it was hardly an impossible task for him.
Alaric had never read so many books. He stole and digested illicit books, old books, horrible books-- which had diagrams that turned his stomach and caused him to flee the attic gagging. Two months of research, two months of hot muggy fall air that lingered and choked him before melting into a mild winter. The weather now chilled the attic where he worked, but instead of freezing the land and tormenting it further the chill sent cold, cool, rain onto the burnt, parched, soil. This was the only sign Alaric needed to believe that he was on the right track.
Eternity: an idea. It is the intangible thing that every man desires in life, and during good phases in relationships. It was important, and impossible, and something Alaric couldn’t get out of his mind since he had last stepped foot in the woods. After all, no one would want to spend eternity alone. Roe couldn’t have wanted eternity just for him.
Alaric couldn’t know if he was right, but he was free to fantasize as he dug up old books from his Uncles workshop in the far west wing of the attic. The older man had long since left the manor, though where exactly Alaric was never quite sure. Nevertheless, the young lord believed he had every right to use his equipment.
When at last, at last, he was finished Alaric spun in a circle and launched himself down the attic stairs. He grinned ear to ear, his hair dusty and wild, and looked quite mad as he was captivated by his own brilliance. However, as his feet hid the sixth step, he heard Tamson’s voice eco up from the hall next to the servant’s quarters. His feet slowed, he leaned forward with his lips parted and heart in his chest.
What was he doing here?
“Where is Lord Alaric?” Tamson’s voice sounded amused, though oddly concerned. The redheaded young lord, hiding up on the side stair not too far away, wished he could see his face. Maybe if he could see Tamson’s face he could gauge the man’s intentions more accurately. “The townsfolk are getting worried; he hasn’t been begging for trysts in a while.”
“He’s been studying.” The servant’s voice was quiet, almost shy. She tittered softly as she paused in her speech and Alaric wondered if it was only his imagination that made him blush, certainly Tamson couldn’t be courting the girl! He was interested in Roe, wasn’t he? “He’s come down some… all covered in dust and dirt, and looking like a ghoul, he has. He asks for apples.”
“Apples?” The blond sounded incredulous, his boots hit on the hardwood doorstep with a distinct clack of hard leather. Alaric imagined that the baker’s son was sitting down, now, and making himself comfortable on one of the servants’ small stools. “Do you think he’s going mad?”
The woman may have shaken her head, as she responded, laughing, “No more mad then his old Uncle.”
Not too far away Alaric could see a small fire in the hearth. The fire, of course, was needed now. It was getting colder by the day, even if snow didn’t seem likely as of yet. The seasons amazed him, he wondered if eternity would make them better or less important. In his hands he held an apple, which he twisted nervously between his fingertips as if showing off the glossy, dark red, sheen to someone near by. He thought of the seasons and the apple instead of the words that came from the pair below.
“His Uncle…how long has he been gone again?” Perfectly normal curiosity, Alaric supposed. This was all just idle chitchat. It meant nothing, though at least the wind had changed in the topic, even if only slightly.
“Hasn’t been seen for nearly ten years.” The servant sighed almost huffily as the door creaked. “I can’t say I’m too happy knowing the young master’s been diggin’ into the old conjurer’s belongings.”
“Hopefully he’ll be done with it soon.” Alaric could hear someone step back and then the door started creaking again on its ill-oiled hinges.
“Maybe. Or maybe we’ll have another mad lord.” She was amused, though slightly vicious, as she continued, “One that likes the men-folk.”
Tamson took a deep, sighing, breath and the redhead could just imagine the blond giving an over-enthusiastic swoon. “Heaven forbid a man liking men-folk.”
“Gracious me, will you be breaching on my territory too?” Playfully affronted, her voice rose slightly. Alaric never heard his staff talk back so much, they were always perfectly polite around him. Hearing this rapport was shocking.
“Me? God no.” The baker’s son tapped on something as he stood again and headed towards the door-- Alaric could tell by how the floorboards moaned in response. “Not like us townsfolk can be so lush with our sex-life.”
Alaric’s face was red again. He was furious for his Uncle, who had been slandered, and for himself in his own right. The servants would have to be reminded to hold their tongues on things they couldn’t possibly understand.
His Uncle hadn’t been mad he had been brilliant. If nothing else, Alaric knew it because of his book collection alone. Likewise, they didn’t know Alaric’s emotions. It wasn’t just that he was attracted to men-folk, he was just particularly fixated on Roe. Alaric hadn’t taken the time to investigate his attractions past that.
It was just Roe and that was all that mattered to the young lord. Alaric wouldn't have worked so hard to manipulate a mere sweet tasting apple into a spell for eternity if it had been just anyone. It was just Roe, just for Roe.
Now all he had to do was find a day to give it to him; he wanted it to be snowing.
Eternity was easy to find. Soon after receiving the challenge, the young lord strode into the woods to present it to the woodsman.
“Shh…shh…” Roe was laughing somewhere, trying to get someone, or something, to be silent. The sound amused Alaric, who pushed back a branch or two while trying to locate him. “Stop.”
It was nearly a week after he had completed the ‘gift’. Unfortunately waiting for the first snow might have been a bad idea since Alaric was now cold and half lost in the tangle of woods that composed Roe’s home. There was the snap of branches, the sound of someone falling, and then another burst of echoing laughter. It sounded as though it was coming from everywhere at once, to the right, above him, behind him, and to the left. Alaric’s cheeks were wind burnt and red as he carefully turned in circles looking for a piece of black hair or light brown leather.
The young lord stood out in the forest. His clothing was rich wine red, his hair the same, and all of it matched the small red apple he held carefully in a snow-white handkerchief. His boots crunched over branches, frozen from the cold wind that had come up the night before. Small pieces of ice and snow melted on his face. He looked younger than he was--mouth agape and rosy as he breathed in the icy air slowly, listening for another clue.
“Canna’ do anything now, can you?” Roe sounded almost like he could have been talking to Alaric, though that wasn’t the case. The young lord smiled, and turned towards the west, blinking into the bleak setting sun that peeked through the heavy clouds here and there.
He paused when he thought he heard a mumbled response to Roe’s question. The voice sounded almost familiar, almost male, but, undoubtedly, neither of those assumptions could be right. Roe was a loner and hard to find when he set out by himself into the woods. No one knew exactly where he lived, after all. He kept that information to himself.
The weather must have been playing tricks on his ears. It was cold, he was shivering in his boots, and the mangled response must have been a trick driven by the silence that surrounded him. Roe had probably wrestled something to the forest floor; the traveling sound had become garbled by the wind, which made it sound human and made him jump to conclusions.
On the other hand, he could be right and trying to think of excuses. Still, he might have succeeded in believing those explanations if he hadn’t kept walking, smelling freshly burnt pine wood--the sort that hadn’t been dried yet. It polluted the air with a sticky smoke and made it quite easy for the young lord to stumble nearly head first into a clearing where Roe was straddling Tamson.
It was impossible to mistake what he was seeing, though Alaric tried. Roe was on top of the bulkier man, legs straddling his hips and hands pressing the baker’s blond hair into the dirt and melting ice around them.
Black hair and light brown leather towered over the baker’s son's gaudy blue shirt and open trousers. Red, red lips were claimed, bitten, and rebuked as Alaric stared, shocked. Roe bit down and sucked on the other man's throat and chest, clawing off the lazily sewn buttons on the baker's top. Tamson’s red ribbon was wrapped around his throat. The strip of material crossed around Tamson’s Adam’s apple whenever Roe’s hands twisted the gathered ends and slowly cut off his ability to breathe. Alaric assumed it was a parody of strangulation, he couldn’t see the ribbon biting into the blond man’s skin.
The interaction between the pair was rough, raw, and thrilling. Roe never let up; he claimed, and clawed, sucking on Tamson’s lips until they bled. He had his pants hitched down to his knees and pulled to the side as he rode on top the other man like a bronco with his left hand fisted over the ribbon, twisting it open and closed rhythmically as the blond writhed and clawed at the forest floor.
Tamson gripped handfuls of frozen ground and melting ice chips. The material was jerked from the ground, then smeared down the pale white shoulders of his partner. Neither of them noticed their audience who watched, slack jawed and horrified, at their actions. The sullying actions of both of them were far worse then any accusation.
When they were finished they lay there panting, their bodies stretched out on the bed of leaves and pine needles just a few inches before the smoldering fire. They never noticed Alaric as he stared, or when he slunk back behind the tree line.
“Like it, Tam?” Roe’s voice was quiet, but it thundered against Alaric’s ears. “S’what you thought it’da be?” The young lord wanted to ignore the rest. “No wife’ll do ‘ya like this.”
Alaric ran home. He didn’t know how to react. Roe, it seemed, had already taken a lover.
The woodsman, however, had already taken a lover by then. The young lord didn’t know how to react…
Alaric’s pulse thrummed between his palms and sent his vision tilting to a nauseating degree with his quick jittery movements. His feet pounded against the floorboards; his boots scuffed at the old, worn attic wood that he had become accustom to over the past few months.
Alaric simply couldn’t imagine where he had gone wrong. It sent him into a panic, an emotional spasm of disbelief.
He had done what Roe had asked. He had analyzed the Roe’s actions towards him, and Tamson’s words…and somehow he had gotten Roe’s intentions completely wrong. He had to have gotten them wrong--there was no other explanation for finding them together like that. There was no excuse. If Roe was interested in him, why would he be having sex with the baker’s son?
Shouldn’t there have been some clue beforehand that would have warned him?
Then again, Roe had asked him for something. The woodsman, really, had misled him. Even if there was some ambiguous phrase, or motion that should have tipped Alaric off, wouldn’t have been so much better to just tell him outright instead of playing coy with him?
Alaric threw the apple, still covered in the handkerchief, at the wall. It hit the wall and fell with a dull thud, then rolled to the right as the slanting wood floorboards directed.
It wasn’t fair. Alaric couldn’t conceive what he had just seen, but he knew it wasn’t fair.
The apple knocked into a leather bound book. It was old, the thin tan material that bound it had wrinkled in the extreme temperatures the attic experienced and caused the colors to the fade in and out from dark tan to pale, fleshy yellow. Skin, human skin, was the binding material his Uncle had long preferred for bookbinding. Alaric couldn’t say he didn’t agree with his binding methods.
In the end, though, he could not have denied the woodsman anything.
“Whacha doing here, fool?” Roe’s eyes gleamed in the firelight. He was half-dressed, dirty shirt discarded on the floor of his tiny hut-like cabin. “I never invited you.”
Alaric smiled some though he couldn’t hide his scrutiny of the other man. He paused, giving Roe the impression that his mouth had gone dry and stupid, though that wasn’t the case this time.
Roe’s skin was abnormally pale, save for the strips of scar tissue that stretched over his lean muscled stomach or down his arms. On his right shoulder there was an arrowhead’s mark bursting out like a demented inverted star. Down by his stomach was a knife swatch, where someone had taken a swipe at him but luckily missed anything vital. Then, down his arms were a several little scars that wrapped slowly around his wrists. Alaric memorized them, watching for the second time just how the firelight played across the other man’s bare flesh and hair. That completed, the young lord smiled again, cool and confident.
Confidence would never do, though, so he cleared his throat and looked away as Roe smirked back and crossed his arms around his chest. Surely Roe had to be a fairy. He had to be something unearthly and more then human like his mother would have claimed had she been alive. No man could be so alluring that he tempted two men at once. No man should be able to continue to tempt a jilted almost lover after such a betrayal. “I just came to give you something.”
“Give me something?” Roe tilted his head, still sneering sharply in the evening light, though there were no windows in his home. “And whatcha think you can give me?”
“Anything you ask for.” Alaric was positive about that fact, and he smirked back, trying to mirror the perfected sneer that the woodsman had thrown at him. Roe was below him, Alaric would simply have to remember that and remind the other man of that fact in a careful, concise manner. Lords did not bow to townsfolk. His father had often reminded him of that fact, but this was the first time he really understood it.
Roe laughed, closing his eyes and throwing back his head to send a shower of hair into the air. His perfectly sharpened canines gleamed and the image was seared into Alaric’s mind. “Do you really expect me t’be believing you? Believe you been keeping eternity for me?”
“Yes.” The young lord nodded slowly, eyes showing a dull gray-green as he watched the woodsman. Exhausted, his eyelashes hid the bags under his eyes from the firelight that aimed to accentuate them.
“A fool-head like you?” The look in the Roe’s eyes turned into an almost leer as he licked his red lips and nodded slightly. He didn’t believe Alaric for one moment, but he’d play along. He always played along with Alaric, even if it wasn’t always the kindest thing to do. “Okay, lemme see.”
Alaric pulled out the apple and carefully tugged away the handkerchief to show one face of it to the other man. The lacquer he had put on it stuck slightly to the material and blemished the smooth cover over the apple while turning the white cotton handkerchief a congealed crimson. He would have mourned for the material more if he hadn’t been completely focused on the half-dressed man before him who looked bemused at the offering of an apple.
“You want me t’believe it’s in an apple?”
“This is everything you want.” He was confident, smirking, and overly self-assured. This was not the normal Alaric who had glanced timidly at the other man months before. He was cold in his demeanor, not that Roe noticed the change overly much as the young lord ran a hand through his hair in an attempt to look nervous. “Try it.”
He pressed the apple along with the handkerchief over to the woodsman, forcing it into his hands and pulling his own away. He hadn’t touched the apple; there was no greasy polish on his fingertips or smears of his own fingerprints along the handkerchief. “Go on.”
Roe glanced doubtfully over at the redheaded man in front of him, then smirked again. He bowed his head slightly as he went to take a bite.
The young lord presented eternity to him, and he felt obligated to honor the rival lover the same.
“What do you want?” Tamson asked, grimacing as he sipped at a cup of ale that Alaric had poured into a teacup for him. Ale, he decided was not the drink of choice for a teacup, especially not one sporting a pink floral pattern. “If it’s about that last loaf of bread it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t deliver the last two loaves.”
“It’s not about the bread.” Alaric smiled brightly at Tamson and poured him a little more pale ale from the teapot. “I just wanted to show you something.”
The young lord’s face was already flushed pink, and the blond rolled his eyes slightly as he loosened his hair ribbon. “Oh?”
He thought Alaric was already drunk. This wasn’t surprising, however, considering the boy’s actions so far that night.
“Yeah.” Alaric looked down, almost bashfully, and then offered his hand to the other man. “It’s upstairs.”
“You never let anyone upstairs.” Tamson swirled the drink and watched it spin along the painted gold edges and carefully depicted stems of the flowers. The ale, to him, tasted slightly strange, a little sweet. Perhaps it was because it was a different brand then he normally was able to get. Lord’s, after all, tended to buy more expensive alcohol. Or maybe it was that they aged it? Tamson couldn’t remember.
Alaric beamed, glossy-eyed, and waved his hand at the light protest. He didn’t seem to notice the blond’s lack of response to his offered hand. “This is a special occasion.”
“Really?” The blond snorted slightly, shaking his head. The heat was making him feel somewhat drowsy and fuzzyheaded, but obviously not as much as the young lord was. Alaric, he figured, would regret this later when he came to his senses.
“Yes.” Alaric nodded, still smiling widely, and once again offered his hand to the baker’s son. “You have to see.”
“Okay, okay.” Tamson pushed the other man’s hand away, stumbling slightly as he followed the other man up the stairs to the attic. He had never been more then five feet from any of the household doors before. He was almost disappointed at how shoddy and dusty the inside looked past the entrance halls; he didn’t know this was the attic. “What is it?”
“A surprise,” Alaric waved a hand, and walked over to his desk to turn up the oil lamp. “Over there. Take a look.”
There were two large boxes in the corner of the room. It wasn’t too far from the young lord, but maybe ten feet away from Tamson. The boxes crowded the ceiling, and were draped in dark red cloths that pooled across the floor.
“Here?” The blond arched an eyebrow and reached forward until Alaric shook his head and motioned to the other swathe of material. “Have you really become a mad lord?”
Alaric laughed, assuming the other man was jesting, and waved his hand again. The motion may have seemed strange if the other man didn’t assume the young lord was well oiled from the drinks. “Oh, no. No.”
“Mmhm, sure,” Tamson muttered and stared at the material in his hand. His eyes seemed almost fixated on the carefully woven threads. He twisted it between his fingers and then shook his head sharply to clear his mind. “So, what you want to show me is here? Is it going to make my life easier? Some mad lord’s magic?”
“Right…” Tamson fisted his hand and jerked the material down off the box. It pooled on the floor at his feet and caught his teacup when he dropped it in surprise.
“W-what is this? What have you done?”
Alaric walked up behind the baker’s son and wrapped his arms around his neck. His fingers pressed against the other man’s sternum, pushing lightly against the tensing muscles of Tamson’s throat when the man swallowed. He was not strangling him. “I gave him want he wanted.”
“He--he couldn’t have wanted this!” Tamson’s voice was somewhat jumbled and Alaric noticed that his lips looked puffy, as though they had been kissed to bruising or agitated with some harsh, unrelenting, substance.
“He did.” Alaric pressed his lips against the man’s ear, feeling the thrum of Tamson’s pulse against the thin shell of skin. “And, did you know? He wanted you to share it.”
Together they watched the box as Tamson’s heart slowed to a purr against the young lord’s ear. Inside the box Roe stared out. Roe was standing there, unmoving, with his red, red lips parted slightly, in gasping, mediocre horror as the baker’s eyes darkened, then emptied. Roe’s chest drew forward, then back as his breath fogged the glass in front of him. Alaric smiled at the mirror image of blond and black hair with identical wide, empty, eyes.
They both breathed, survived, were preserved in the glass cases, but had no life at all.
Alaric was careful as he placed Tamson in the second glass case. He covered them both carefully with dark red sheets, then blew out the candles that dotted the tables.
They lived happily ever after.