‘Can I give him a hand with his bags?’
‘Of course, go ahead.’
Toby flashed him a grin like the sun coming up and Lorne wished he’d been paying attention to the boy’s question, because he was good at recognising that wistful half-hoping tone most days and could have politely implied that the kid would have been safer cuddling up to a grass snake than the slippery man approaching them. Too late for that now. Lorne watched Toby almost skipping up the garden path to the cloaked figure.
They approached slowly, giving Lorne enough time to compose his features, panic briefly, compose them again, and get well on his way to another bought of panic just as Toby and his companion arrived at the door.
‘Stygian,’ said Lorne.
‘Lorne,’ replied Stygian, inclining his head politely beneath his black hood. Lorne – and not for the first time either – had a sudden and frantic urge to either punch the man straight in the gut, kiss him hard enough to steal his breath, or perhaps perform the two actions simultaneously. Stygian pulled back his hood. His silvery grey eyes gave the infuriating impression that he was aware of Lorne’s dilemma and enjoying it immensely.
‘Lorne?’ Toby’s voice quivered a bit and Lorne took a deep breath.
‘Martha’s making toffee apples in the kitchen,’ Lorne said, watching Toby’s eyes light up. ‘Why don’t I carry Stygian’s bags upstairs for him and you can find out what the menu is tonight for our guest?’ Toby glanced up at Stygian and the man smiled warmly back at him. Lorne’s stomach clenched uncomfortably.
‘That would be very helpful, Toby, thank you.’ Stygian flashed the boy one of his infectious smiles and Toby scampered off eagerly to the kitchen. Lorne grabbed Stygian’s bags, lifting them easily in his large hands and headed through the door and up the stairs – not bothering to check if Stygian was behind him.
He pushed his way into a small room at the top of the landing and dropped the bags beside the bed. He’d just turned and begun making his way towards the door when a deeply tanned hand with long, calloused fingers snagged the edge of his jacket. He turned. Stygian’s eyes glittered mischievously and his dark hair spilled down over his flushed cheeks, brushing the corners of his parted lips. Lorne’s gaze flickered from the red wetness of Stygian’s mouth to the crooked angle of his nose where Lorne had broken it years before in a fight, to the scar across his cheek, to the brilliance of Stygian’s eyes.
That same fight had claimed two of Lorne’s teeth – one at the front and another closer to the back. Sometimes Lorne would run his teeth over the gaps and think of Stygian and wonder how he was doing and get angry at himself for caring.
The two of them watched each other for a while. At any given moment there was a fairly equal chance that the pair would fight or fuck and they were watching each other now – deciding which it was going to be this time. Stygian’s fingers were still holding Lorne’s jacket and Lorne could feel them trembling slightly, nails bitten down until tiny cuts littered the skin. Lorne took the hand in his, feeling how warm it was despite the chill outside. In a moment the pair were embracing, Stygian’s face pressed to Lorne’s shoulder. Lorne could smell the last of the summer in his dark tresses and he kissed the top of Stygian’s head, murmuring softly and wrapping his arms tighter around Stygian’s thin waist.
‘You should eat more,’ he whispered.
‘You’ll fatten me up, hmm?’ Stygian replied.
‘If it meant you couldn’t get away.’ Lorne’s voice shrank until it was almost inaudible and Stygian peered up at him. Lorne could see Stygian struggling to speak, fingertips reaching out and fluttering against Lorne’s cheek.
The two watched each other for a long moment – Lorne was almost considering aborting this whole thing and delivering a swift kick to Stygian’s balls – but then it was too late for that because Stygian’s tongue was in his mouth and his lips were hungry and the taste of him was too much and it had been such a long time.
He locked the door tightly behind them and the pair began to undress each other, eyes lingering on the scars each had left on chests and legs and throats. There were toes still a little squashed, never quite aligned. Both noses broken. Missing teeth. Wrists and ankles still inclined to sprain after years spent kicking and punching and throwing and biting each other. Scars from smashed bottles used as weapons, or crushed underneath the pair as they’d fought. The marks still littered Lorne’s neck from where Stygian had pinned him down against solid paving stones, fingernails cutting into his neck, suffocating him until he’d begun to see stars and his grip on Stygian’s arm had loosened and fallen away.
Their love was ugly at times: a bird plucked of its feathers. Stygian would arrive in the late autumn when the frost set in and leave when the first blossoms appeared on the trees. When Stygian was gone, Lorne would spend weeks still with the taste of him in his mouth and the feel of him in his arms so that everything about him seemed halved. Then he would begin to forget, and everyone would slowly forget with him, that he was not quite a whole person. And then the season would grow cooler again and Lorne would grow frantic and fitful once more and could never seem to keep his hands from grasping at the empty air or his own arms as if in search of an embrace.
Then Stygian would arrive. With Stygian there Lorne seemed to grow in presence, his deep indigo eyes would lighten to almost sky blue and his mouth seemed never far from a smile. It never seemed to matter whether the pair was on the best or worst of terms. There were times Stygian stayed when the pair could not go near each other without raised fists, and at other times whole winters would pass in which the two would hide upstairs in the tiny room on the top of the landing, kissing and touching and making love almost every moment. Either way, Lorne only really seemed to live in Stygian’s presence.
Right now Lorne was alive. He pushed Stygian back against the sheets, biting and sucking the tanned skin until tiny purple marks littered his neck and chest and thighs. Stygian moaned and gasped and grabbed tight fistfuls of Lorne’s hair. He threw back his head, throat exposed, as Lorne ran his teeth from his chin to the dip in his collarbone.
‘Please’ Stygian hissed between his teeth. ‘Fuck. Fuck!’ Stygian hissed sharply as Lorne’s tongue swirled around his nipple. ‘Lorne you cock-sucking bastard Christ – sweet Jesusssss.’
‘Missed you too, Styge,’ Lorne crooned softly, feeling around in the bedside cabinet for whatever oil they’d been using before Stygian left. He spread a small amount over his fingers and pushed his index finger smoothly through the ring of muscle at Stygian’s hole.
‘Nice and tight. Good boy,’ Lorne purred, adding a second finger and flexing them a little, deliberately avoiding that tiny bump that usually made Stygian go crazy. It took a little while for Stygian to relax enough for three fingers and Lorne distracted him by running his tongue over Stygian’s navel and biting down gently in his belly button.
Lorne pulled his fingers away, slid his hands up Stygian’s thighs, and pressed them close enough for one breathless kiss before pushing slowly inside his lover. When he felt himself pushed balls-deep he took a long, shuddering breath.
Stygian was all taught muscle and sinew beneath him, hip bones sharp and angular, dark hair long and stuck to his flushed cheeks with sweat. Lorne pulled back a little, pushed in slowly again, every movement sending quick flashes of heat from his cock up along his spine.
Stygian seemed to have forgotten how to breathe, moaning low and without stopping until Lorne felt it in his chest as if it were his own heartbeat. With each thrust he set about re-learning every inch of Stygian’s body; tracing every part of the man’s skin his fingers could reach. The pace was slow for a long time. They were still savouring the feel of it, satisfying a thirst they’d almost forgotten existed and realising all at once how much it resembled the need to eat or drink or breathe.
Lorne kissed Stygian hard on the mouth and felt the desperation in the responding kiss. At the moment their coin was spinning in the air and there was feeling of lightness and warmth in their hearts like the first warm breath of the year. They seemed dizzy with it, kissing again and again as Lorne thrust harder and the blunt head of his cock pushed firmly against something inside Stygian that made him yell and close his eyes. Lorne could see his name forming on Stygian’s lips like a prayer.
Lorne brushed his fingers over Stygian’s cock where it pressed – hard and slick – against his stomach. A smile of genuine delight lit his features as this tiny gesture brought white cum splashing onto his fingers. Stygian made a noise somewhere between pleasure and paradise and Lorne kissed the sound from his mouth as he felt himself thrust harder still, faster, panting and gasping and coming with a low groan and so hard he couldn’t think.
He pulled out and lay down, drawing Stygian closer and sighing softly. His breath causing stray strands of Stygian’s hair to rise and catch in the light.
‘How was the summer?’ Stygian breathed against Lorne’s skin.
‘There were birds and blossoms and all of that shit…. Mostly I just missed you. I know we don’t usually do this heavy stuff on the first day. But you know I just sat around moping and wondering how you were, so can we cut the crap where we pretend I’ve done anything else and skip to the bit where you talk about your adventures, and the instruments people let you play, and the jokes you told all year round at every tavern that never stopped making people laugh?’ asked Lorne.
‘This year I played seven beautiful guitars,’ Lorne said. ‘Six women danced for me and broke their hearts at my feet. The roads were warm. This year I didn’t have shoes for a month so some days I would wear strips of cloth ’round my feet and the children would chase after them and try to catch them; their laughter was like the first true note ever played. This year I told an outrageous joke about a carpenter and six busty blondes and a man actually wet himself with laughter.
‘Beautiful things happened, Lorne, but you know I just sat around moping and wondering how you were, so can we cut the crap where we pretend I’ve done anything else and skip to the bit where I ask you to come with me next time and you punch me in the face and tell me you have a tavern to run, and nephews and nieces that live there, and guests, and ask why I can’t just stay here?’
Lorne kissed his way from Stygian’s shoulder, along his collarbone and up from the hollow at the base of his neck to the sweet warmth of his mouth. ‘Tell me why I should come with you.’
‘I could teach you how to dance. I’ve always wanted to teach you to dance, Lo. And we could sit out in the fields and watch the stars without freezing our bollocks off for once. And I’ve always wanted to get you drunk–‘
‘You’ve seen me drunk more times than I can count on fingers or toes. I just want one embarrassing drunken story I can tell everyone about you. And I’d teach you to recognise the calls of all the summer birds, like starlings.’ Stygian by this point was using his hands to talk, eyes bright and glowing. Lorne was thinking about starlings, about how he’d seen them flying away before he could share them with Stygian, year after year after fucking year. He was, by now, thoroughly sick of this mess.
‘Okay. Now tell me why you can’t stay.’
‘I’ve told you before.’
‘Yeah but I didn’t understand you and we got into another fight. Look, when you said ‘this place just suddenly feels like a prison’ you weren’t actually telling me that my home was like a prison and you wanted to escape me, were you?’
‘Well that’s essentially why I punched you in the face.’
‘So let’s try this again and this time I won’t punch you in the face.’
‘You say that every time,’ Stygian remarked.
‘I do, don’t I? Er…. Tie me up?’
‘If you tie me up I can’t possibly attack you.’ Other people might have needed more persuasion than this, but Stygian didn’t bother to point out any of the faults Lorne’s logic (because he was looking forward to tying the man up enormously) and searched the room until he found a scarf. He tied both Lorne’s wrists together and then to the headboard using a reef knot (one could learn a lot from sailors).
He perched himself on Lorne’s stomach and as he spoke cum trickled from his ass and pooled at Lorne’s navel.
‘It starts when the autumn leaves have all rotted away and the ground is starting to smell fresh again. It’s kind of like when you get butterflies in your stomach, only permanent and irritating. And then when the days start getting longer it gets worse. My skin starts itching and I get claustrophobic and for the final week I can’t even enter a room if the windows are shut – which is what I meant about it feeling like a prison. I know I have to leave when I can’t face the thought of going back inside to my room.
‘And no, it isn’t you. My whole family travelled when we were children. They felt it too. After they died I travelled where I pleased in the summertime and sheltered in the winter and eventually I found this place, which is as much of a home as I can have, but every year I leave and we fight and I can’t seem to make it better, Lo. You can’t come with me and I can’t stay.’
‘I’ll come,’ said Lorne, and, seeing Stygian’s raised eyebrows, added a hasty, ‘with you.’
‘What about this place?’
‘I’m giving it to my sister. I only really own it for appearances’ sake; I just didn’t realise that for a long time. Think about it: who organises the rooms and the food and the ale? Who hands you your salary and cleans your rooms? My dad would have handed it straight to her but I’m the eldest son, so it’s technically my in inheritance, and I’m substantially lacking in any talent of my own.’
‘I don’t know,’ Stygian shifted slightly and felt Lorne’s cock begin to stiffen beneath him, ‘I’d say you’ve definitely got some talents I could put to use.’ He shifted again, watching Lorne’s body tense sharply, muscles bulging around the cords tied to his wrists.
‘I’m coming with you Stygian. I mean it.’ Lorne gasped, struggling to remember how to speak.
‘I know you do Lo.’ Stygian smiled a watery smile. ‘Thank you.’ Then he resumed his fidgeting until it had transformed into a definite thrusting and Lorne could only look up at him helplessly from the pillows, trembling like a bird on its first flight under the weight of love.