Title: Regression: The Summer King
Author: Peach
Email address: Peach1250@hotmail.com
Fandom: X-Files
Pairings: Skinner/Krycek
Warnings: This story contains a m/m sexual relationship. AU
Rating: NC17
Date: 04/13/03
Archive: If I posted to your list it's yours.
Website: http://us.reocities.com/peach1250/index.html
Disclaimer: The characters of Skinner, Krycek and the X-Files belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and the Fox Network. No copyright infringement is intended no money is being made.
Summary: Alex is a beautiful man who has been selected the king of summer. For one year, he may have anything he desires do anything he wants. Then he will die as a sacrifice.
NOTES: Ursula sent me the summary above. I think she and I were related in a prior life because otherwise she wouldn't be able to manipulate me so well. This is the 7th in the regression series.
I warn you that this one is written as a fantasy so I blended elements from different cultures and made no effort to set this in a real timeframe. I hope that won't be a huge problem for you. Beta by Bill and Josan.


"Him. I want that one."

My entourage turned as one to stare at the man I'd pointed out. Their leader looked back at me in surprise.

"You want a man? A foreigner? The bald one?"

"Yes. I want him. Bring him to me."

Seated in the litter I watched as the dumbfounded guard went to fetch the man I had pointed to. I could see the strange look that was thrown my way as the man shook his head. Finally, two of the men grabbed him and pulled him through the parting crowd to my side.

I smiled down at him as they held him. He was older than I had thought at first, but still a striking man.

"My name is Alexei. Come join me."

I moved over to make room for him, not caring that the men carrying the litter would need to support the weight of two. This was my time after all and I was to have anything I wanted. Right now I wanted to shock anyone watching.

"Look, I told these men I'm not that kind. Find someone else to warm your bed."

"I do not think you understand. I am the King of Summer."

"That means nothing to me. I'm from another land where such things are not done."

"Nevertheless, you will warm my bed if I wish it." Turning to look at the leader of the guards, I spoke again. "Him! No other will do."

"Yes, Lord."

At a gesture of his hand the big man was surrounded and we continued our trip through the bazaar. He struggled until he realized it was useless. Then he resorted to verbal attacks as I stopped several times to pick out items and foodstuffs. I ignored his ranting, as did the men forcing him to come with us. When I felt I had all the things I wanted for the day, I ordered the men to take us home.

The large house I had been given was indeed the most beautiful place I'd ever seen, even though I would only have it for one year. When we reached it, I headed right for the room that was set aside for bathing.

"Bring him, I wish him cleaned before I use him."

The tone was haughty, even though I did not feel that way. In the past short month of this, the last year of my life, I'd learned to hide my true feelings. I do not deny that I enjoyed the plentiful food provided me, or did I shrink from the way my body was cleaned and oiled. The clothing was uncomfortable, stiff with needlework and embroidered decorations, but I wore it as a sign of my station.

I had, however, turned away all the women who had sought to share my bed. I know they hoped for me to produce offspring before my year ended. I could have lain with them but I had determined that I would leave no child behind.

I was sure that Sir Charles, my uncle, had arranged in some way for me, his brother's bastard, to be chosen. He had kept my mother and me at the point of starvation for many years in his anger at his brother's love for her. I do not believe my father would have let us be treated so badly, had he lived to see my birth.

She had died the previous winter in the cold shack we called home. I was alone with no hope of being more than a serf. When my uncle suggested that I be among the youth in the drawing for King of the Summer, I agreed. I felt if I was chosen I could at least benefit my kin and I'd have a year to enjoy life to the fullest before my life was taken from me.

I stood with arms raised as the servants stripped me. I laughed out loud as he cursed the ones stripping him. The small pool was partially filled and the line of servants brought in buckets of hot water to fill it to the top. He was pushed to the edge and when he refused to step in they 'assisted' him.

I stepped in once the water had stopped splashing. He frowned at me, but the water was too soothing and he relaxed minutely.

"Will you tell me your name? Surely, that does no harm?"


"Walter, a strong name. It suits you."

"Thank you, so much."

His sarcasm was not lost on me. But I smiled as though we were making the politest of conversation.

"Is there anything special you would like for dinner? I can have anything you want brought."

"No need to pretend we are courting. You know I don't want to be here. I told you, I do not lie with men."

"This night you shall, and any other nights I desire it. I might decide I want you for the rest of my year."

"And how long is that?"

"You truly do not know about our customs, do you?"

"No, I do not."

"I have eleven months left in this world. Then I shall be sacrificed to the gods."


"Yes, to bring good fortune to the village."

"That's insane!"

"It is our way."

"Why are you just accepting this? Don't you want to live?"

His eyes sparked with his emotion and I was mesmerized for a moment. If I had thought him striking from across the market, he was even more so with the color of anger in his cheeks. I let myself pretend that the anger was directed at my plight, not at me.


I looked at the boy sitting across from me. How could he be so calm when his death had been decreed and there was no good reason for him to die? This country was so backward, it boggled my mind. My family had warned me not to come here. But I just had to travel and now I was a virtual prisoner.

The room was well guarded, the men making no move to conceal that they watched and listened. And this beautiful boy sat there as if he had all the time left in the world and not a care past what to eat for his dinner. I was outraged, both for him and myself.

He shrugged one shoulder and stood abruptly. I watched as a servant hurried forward to bathe him, then he sat back down to allow the soap to be rinsed from his body. The servant then walked to my side of the pool. Since I knew the guards would force me as they had forced me to come here, I stood. By the time the servant considered me clean, my jaw ached from gritting my teeth.

Alexei exited the pool and walked to my side as I was being rinsed. His hand reached out, cupping my balls, hefting them as if I were breeding stock he was inspecting. I groaned as my cock twitched. He looked up into my eyes with a faint smile. I wanted to slap the smile off his face, but knew I'd be punished if I hurt him.

His fingers ran lightly along my shaft, causing my cock to rise slightly. His other hand rose, a thumb rubbing over the lip I suddenly realized I was biting. I snapped at him and he allowed me to bite his thumb. His eyes widened with the pain, but he made no move to pull away or call for help. The metallic taste of his blood brought me to my senses and I released him.

Both our eyes centered on the abused digit and he slowly lifted it to lick it clean. He stepped back from me and spoke to one of the servants.

"We will have our meal on the terrace. Bring Walter something to wear and show him the way."

He walked away from me to a long bench where he reclined. A servant immediately began to massage scented oil into his skin, as another servant began to comb his hair. I took the robe I was offered and covered my body. I turned to look at him just as he turned onto his back and the servant began to rub more oil over his chest.

I felt the heat of my blush as the servant moved down to oil even his most intimate parts. His foreskin was pulled back and the crown oiled just as carefully as the rest of his body had been.

The servant who had been told to show me the way to the terrace touched my arm lightly. I jerked, turning to look down at him.

"This way, Sir."

I looked back at Alexei once more, but turned hastily away when his head turned toward me. Three of the guards followed as the servant led me to the terrace. Once there, I saw that the area was heavily patrolled, there was no chance for me to escape.

I settled in a chair to await whatever the night would bring. Soon platters and bowls were brought to sit upon a long table to one side. A smaller table was covered with a gleaming white cloth, and the finest dishes and goblets were placed upon it. Two comfortable looking chairs appeared, and were placed on either side.

A servant poured a goblet to the brim with wine and brought it to me. The aroma was heavenly, so I allowed myself to sip as I waited. The wait was not a long one.

Alexei came through the door and my breath caught in my throat. I had never noticed male beauty in the past, but no other word fit this man. His hair had been left loose around his shoulders and gleamed in the remaining rays of the sun. The robe he wore was of the finest silk, dyed the green of his eyes. The areas of his skin that were visible were the white of alabaster.

I felt rough, crude and ugly next to him.

My face flamed when I saw the white bandage around his thumb. He had done nothing to me as yet and I had injured him. He stood looking out at the sunset as though it was his last and that is when it struck me that it took a truly brave man to show such serenity when he knew the exact number of his days.

Candles were being lit behind him, but no one moved to the table as yet, and no one crossed in front of him. He stood motionless until the last of the light faded from the sky. Then he turned to me.

"Come, eat, Walter. I'm sure you will enjoy the food. The best cooks in the land prepare the meals of the Summer King."


Walter rose and came to the table as the lit candles were moved to surround us with their gentle light. The night breeze was just enough to make them flicker, but not strong enough to extinguish them. He took food from various dishes as they were offered to him. Once his plate was filled he ate with good appetite.

I picked at the food, my mind on the end of the evening, not my dinner. I waited until he had eaten most of his meal before I spoke to him.

"Walter, tell me of your home."

"It's far from here and I should never have left it." He growled in response.

"Your anger is wasted. It will not change my mind."

"Why me? Just answer that. Surely you could have found a willing bedmate. You are certainly handsome enough to attract someone."

"There are many who have offered. But they just want to have the privilege of saying they were with the King. There would be no real feelings in the act."

"And you think there will be with me."

"Anger is a feeling. And you won't tell tall tales of me when I'm gone."

"So you would risk that I might hurt you?"

"Did you think I would be the one to be used? No, Walter, I wish to enter you."

He roared and jumped from the chair, knocking it over. He charged for the edge of the terrace but was brought down by the guards. I watched as he struggled against them. It had been foolish of me to hope he'd go quietly to my bed.

When his struggles ceased, I rose to walk to him, the guards holding him securely. The look in his eyes would have turned me to ash had he been a god. I shook my head sadly. Part of me wanted to back down and let him leave, but I could not. I knew that my every move was being reported to my uncle, and I would not give him the satisfaction of showing any weakness.

"Take him to my room and bind him to the bed."

"On his back or his stomach, Lord?"

"His stomach, of course. How would I make use of him if he was on his back?"

They hurriedly pulled him to his feet. Again he struggled, and then one of the men hit him.

"Stop that! I want him to be aware when I take my pleasure from him." I made my voice as commanding as possible, and received several wary looks from the men. They all knew that to anger me would mean the end of this sheltered job.

The blow had stunned him enough that they were able to get him into the house. I sat at the small table, sipping my wine until the moon rose high in the sky and the temperature had dropped. Then I made my way inside.

He was lying face down on my bed, his legs spread obscenely and tied securely to the posts. His hands had been wrapped in cloth before the rope was tied around them. I resolved to discover who had made that effort to protect him from further injury.

I walked slowly to the side of the bed where his head was turned. His eyes were closed, his breathing deep, he was sleeping. I stood and just looked at him for a long time.

In this position every muscle was revealed. This was not some soft man who had his needs catered to. This was a man who knew about work, who spent time in the sun. I wondered if he would be a fierce or a gentle lover.

It saddened me that I would never know.

I sat next to him on the edge of the bed. Reaching out, I caressed his shoulder feeling the strength that my eyes had revealed. It would be easy for him to hurt me. My thumb throbbed to remind me that he already had.

His eyes flickered and then opened. Puzzlement quickly gave way to knowledge.

"Do you want me to beg now?"

"No. I want you to try and relax. I have no desire to hurt you."

"You just want to rape me." His eyes flashed furiously at me.

"I would rather make love to you."

Had he known me, he would have heard the sadness in my voice. He turned his head away from me.

"Get on with it then. I want to get out of here."

His tone brought out my anger and I lashed out at him.

"Did you think this was for one night? I have eleven months to live and I want companionship. You will do nicely."

His head twisted back around to me, his expression displaying anger mixed with disbelief.

"You would keep me here against my will for that long? Raping me nightly so that you'll have companionship? The first chance I get, I'll kill you."

"Do you think I'll only be able to use you at night? No one will care if I want you spread across the breakfast table. And as for killing me – I wouldn't advise that, they would then make you take my place. Be patient; eleven months is not that long, you'll have many years to forget me."

He screamed then and pulled violently against the bindings. I stood and moved away until he had worn himself out and lay limp upon the sweat-soaked bed. I'd known he would not escape, the ropes were strong and the men who had tied him expert.

I ordered water from the servants and bathed the sweat from his body. Then I dropped my robe, picked up the scented oil and knelt between his legs. He jerked away as much as he could at first, but I took my time. Slowly the deep massage soothed his muscles and he lay pliant.

He jerked again when I dribbled oil over his buttocks. I'm sure it tickled as it ran along that valley between them. I kneaded his ass slowly until those muscles relaxed as well, then slipped my slick fingers in between, to work a finger inside him. He groaned when I brushed over his sweet spot. With my other hand I fondled his balls, the weight of them resting in my palm, as I used my fingers to caress.

The servants had placed a rolled up blanket under his hips before they tied him, so I had plenty of room to reach his cock as well. Pulling back a little, I applied more oil to my hands, sliding one along his balls until I could grip his cock. I brought him erect.

With one hand on his balls the other on his cock I worked him until I felt the tightening of his sac. Pulling harder, I sighed as his seed spurted against the blanket he was resting on. Catching as much as I could, I coated my own erection and plunged into his body before the last tremor had subsided.

I lay full length on his back and waited for his internal muscles to stop clenching. Then lifting up onto my hands, I took my pleasure.


I panted against the bed, wanting to scream my rage at him. He had used my body against me. My traitor of a cock had responded to him. My cock didn't know it was a man touching it. Didn't care - all it cared about was the fact that it had been months since another had handled it.

He had pushed inside me before my climax had stopped rolling though me. My body had been so focused on it that I felt no pain. The weight of him on my back as I rode out the last of the twitching was strangely comforting. I hated him for that as well.

When he started to fuck me, I was even angered at the pleasure he was bringing me. I tightened down trying to push him from my body, but if his moans were any indication, it only seemed to add to his pleasure.

He moved slowly at first but soon picked up the pace. The bed rocked under us as he slammed into me. I could feel his heavy balls slapping against mine with each stroke. Words tumbled from his mouth – words I didn't want to hear.

"tight…hot…slick…so good inside you…never stop…never let you go…mine first…always…"

His head dipped and he licked the side of my throat before sucking hard on a portion of my skin. I didn't know it then, but the rest of my life I would carry his marks on me.

He straightened again and his thrusts were harder and deeper. I moaned in shame when I realized that my cock was hard again. As if he knew, his hand sought me out and he stroked me as he pounded away at me.

When he slammed in harder than before and howled, his hand squeezed me almost to the point of pain and I released again. His jerking inside me added to the wave of my own orgasm. He dropped over me like a blanket; his panting breath tickling my ear as we both fought for precious air. His hand stayed wrapped around my organ possessively.

I moaned as his softening penis slipped from me, wiggled as his sperm tickled my balls as it ran down over them. After a few minutes he rose and soon I felt a cool cloth on my still heated skin, the trickle wiped up so that it no longer tickled.

"I'll have you released if you give your word to sleep quietly next to me this night."

"You would feel safe sleeping next to me after I threatened you?"

"At least I would die after the best sexual experience I ever had."

His voice held a note of sarcasm that I thought was directed at me. Much later I would learn the real reason for the tone.

"I give my word."

He summoned the guards and I was released, my wrists and ankles treated with a soothing unguent and wrapped in soft bandages. They stripped the bed and placed clean sheets upon it. He settled in the bed and motioned to me. I lay next to him as near the edge as possible. He sighed, and then closed his eyes.

Had I thought to break my word to him, I soon realized that it would be impossible. A guard stood at each corner of the bed. After what seemed a long time his breath deepened and I knew he slept. I finally found rest as well.

I woke the next morning with an armful of sleep-warmed, naked man flesh and a mouthful of raven hair.

I wanted to scream when I realized I was hard and his hand was caressing me as his tongue lapped at one of my nipples. I did scream, for a completely different reason, as he moved down and enveloped me in his mouth. No woman had ever used her mouth on me that way. I was both appalled and intrigued.

Without thought I gathered his hair in my hands, moving the mass of it to the side. Then I lifted my head to watch as he pleasured me with his lips and tongue. His mouth was so wet and hot against my flesh. The sight of him moving up and down on me was obscenely erotic. I watched as he worked me with his hands joining in the task, fingers caressing the space behind my balls before probing gently at my hole.

I flinched as his finger touched my sore hole and he withdrew it immediately. I was surprised at his almost intuitive response to me as well as his obvious concern. The fingers moved back to my balls rubbing them tenderly as his mouth continued it's magic.

I tightened my hands in his hair, knowing I was most likely hurting, but he made no protest. I looked up quickly to see where the guards were. They were still in the room but were all looking elsewhere, although, I had no doubt they had been watching.

Looking back down my body to him I forgot about them as he pulled up. He gripped me with one hand and ran his tongue around my cockhead. I gasped as his tongue tip rubbed over and then dipped into the slit. His eyes were open and he smiled at me before he dived down once more.

I clutched him to me and let out a loud groan as I emptied in his mouth. When I was spent, I released his hair. He moved up the bed to lie watching me as my breath evened out. I felt I owed him something, but I certainly didn't want to try that with him.

I turned on my side and reached out to him. He gasped softly as I tweaked his nipple. His eyes fluttered as I traced a line down his chest and wrapped my big hand around him. His hand hovered near me until I took it with my other one and placed it on my shoulder.

As I stroked him he leaned into my touch, his hand tightening on my shoulder. One leg bent upward and I reached to pull it to rest on my hip. A low moan greeted that action. I took him back in hand and stroked him in a steady rhythm.

A whimper slipped from him before he bit his lip, my eyes focused on his face as he chewed at his lip to keep back his sounds. I moved my head closer to his to whisper.

"Come for me, Alexei."

His eyes opened, I saw the surprise there before he jerked and sprayed me with his fluids. Had I not been so close I would have missed the murmured, "Thank you."


I couldn't believe he was willingly touching me, had moved my hand and leg to rest on his body. And then he was stroking me, his hand strong and sure. I was so very close to the edge and suddenly he spoke.

"Come for me, Alexei."

And I did.

It felt so right, as if we had done this many times before. I wanted to kiss him but settled for saying thank you. We lay there for several long moments until his stomach suddenly made a loud noise. I couldn't suppress the chuckle.

"Guess we should eat."

I slipped from the bed and called for water. I allowed him the space to tend to his morning needs while I went into the adjoining room to take care of my own. I was at the table when he joined me, trailed by several guards. I sighed with dismay when I saw the new bruise purpling his jawbone. One of the guard's eyes was swollen as well.

But I reminded myself that I couldn't expect one kind act on his part to signal that he wanted to be with me. After all, he had told me more than once that he was not of my persuasion. I did allow myself to hope that he would accept the idea soon; for his own safety if for no other reason.

"Help yourself to breakfast, Walter. I don't normally have anyone serve except at dinner."

He walked to the buffet and filled a plate. At least his appetite was remaining good. We ate in silence and had just finished when my uncle swept into the room.

"Alexei, how are you this morning?"

"I'm fine, Sir Charles."

"And who might this be?"

I frowned at his obvious gambit, shrinking away as his hand settled on my shoulder. He already knew who Walter was. He probably knew before we'd even gotten home from the market the previous day.

My uncle moved away from me, helped himself to food, then sat at the table next to Walter. I watched as Walter shifted away from him. Not that I blamed him, my uncle always smelled of stale tobacco and unwashed flesh.

"His name is Walter. He'll be staying with me until I grow tired of him."

Walter's eyes flashed with rebellion but that shifted to something else when my uncle spoke.

"You gave me the impression you did not enjoy such games, nephew."

"This is different."

"I see. He doesn't look the type."

"I am present! Do not talk about me as if I can not hear you."

My uncle gestured and one of his guards came forward to strike Walter, knocking him to the floor. I moved quickly to cover Walter's body before another blow could land; not the best move on my part, but the only one I could make. A heavy boot hit my side and my breath left me in a gush.

Walter's hands grabbed for me to move me out of harm's way, but there was no need as my uncle had called out.

"Do not hit the King! Help them both up."

Strong hands reached for us and we were both soon on our feet. My uncle turned to a servant.

"Prepare the King's bath, I wish to make sure there is no damage."

I groaned, Walter's hand reached out to steady me. I looked into his eyes, seeing the knowledge there. He was definitely a smart man who had read the situation quite well.

Walter made no other protest as we were ushered into the bathing chamber. He even entered the water with me, to sit quietly as I was fussed over. After I was bathed, I was put on display as the bruise on my side was treated, then my skin was oiled.

I could feel my uncle's eyes crawling over my body like snakes. It took all my will power to stand still and be anointed. While I did not mind the private oiling of my body, this exhibition of my body in front of my uncle sickened me, as did everything about the lecherous old man.

"You will be a most splendid sacrifice, Alexei. The gods will be pleased with your beauty."

"Thank you, Sir Charles."

I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and turned to look at Walter. He had started to rise from the pool.

"Walter is ready to be bathed."

His head turned to me; I issued a warning with my eyes. He gave the slightest of nods and stood still as his body was washed.

My uncle stood and walked over to me. I stood stoically as he touched the bruise on my side. Then he turned to the guard who had kicked me.

"You are lucky it is a small injury."

I wanted to laugh out loud at that point. He would not have cared if my ribs had been broken as long as I was well in time to be offered to the gods.

"I must leave you now, Alexei. I have to take care of my own affairs." He walked over to stop next to Walter. "I would have thought you would have used one of the many throwing themselves at you. Why this bald, foreigner?"

"Because he will leave here when I'm done with him. Besides, a reluctant bedmate lends spice to the encounter. Isn't that what you told me?"

I could not keep the bitterness from my voice. Walter's eyes were focused on me instead of the man standing by him. I saw the rage enter them at my uncle's next words.

"You did indeed. Goodbye, Alexei."

He swept from the room with his bodyguards. I sagged slightly and Walter was instantly at my side.

"Get the King his clothing!"

The servants jumped as if Walter were in charge. When they brought my clothes, he took them from their hands and dressed me himself.


I had learned much in the short time since waking that morning. I had learned that a man could give me greater pleasure than any woman ever had. Also that Alexei was related to the royal caste but clearly not loved, and his uncle had abused him.

I was amazed that he was not a gibbering idiot or cruel, most would have been with these things and a death sentence hanging over them.

When his clothing was brought, I took it from the servant and dressed him myself. Stepping back, I realized I'd liked the view of him naked, gleaming, wearing the bruise he had obtained trying to protect me. That did not, however, keep me from appreciating the way he looked clothed.

I stepped farther back to allow the servant to tend to his hair. Clothing was brought for me at his order and I dressed as I waited for him to be finished.


He looked up at me as if surprised to find me still there.

"Yes, Walter?"

"Would you show me some of your countryside? I only arrived here two days ago and have not seen any of the wonders I was told existed in this land."

He smiled, his face transformed, no longer merely beautiful, he looked angelic.

"I would be honored to show you my country." Turning to a servant he spoke, "Have a carriage readied for us and pack some food for our noon meal."

He led the way outside and we waited on a bench under a large tree for the carriage to be brought around.

"What would you like to see, Walter? The hot springs? The vineyards? Or a ride up the mountainside?"

"I will bow to your expertise. Which do you enjoy most?"

"The view from the mountains is quite something this time of year. You'll be able to see all the gardens in bloom. There's a nice spot there to picnic as well."

"That sounds perfect."

He beamed at me, then started to talk animatedly about the waterfall next to the place we'd have our lunch. He looked so young as he spoke. Again I thought how barbaric this custom was of sacrificing a human to gods who probably didn't exist, and if they did, wouldn't notice.

The day was warm and sunny – a wonderful day to go for a long drive through the countryside. He pointed out many things to me as we drove along, and I found myself laughing with him over the antics of the children who ran next to us tossing flowers into the carriage and calling his name.

Around mid morning we reached the highest point the carriage could reach. Jumping out of the carriage, he spoke to the leader of his guards.

"Give us two of the horses. Walter and I will go up to the plateau by the waterfall to eat lunch. You may all rest here until we return."

"Lord, I do not believe that is a good idea. He may try and escape or hurt you."

"There are only two ways down from there – the trail yonder or jumping off to one's death. You will stop him if he comes back down the trail and should he choose the other way – well, that would be his decision. Walter, do you wish to hurt me?"

"I only want my freedom, Alexei. I have no desire to hurt you."

"See, Captain. Nothing to worry about."

The man nodded slightly, admitting his defeat. Two horses were brought to us and once we were seated on them a blanket and basket were handed up to us as well.

Alexei smiled at me as he turned his horse toward the trail that wound up the mountain. Neither of us spoke until we were out of sight of the guards.

"You are a very trusting man, Alexei."

"Not really. I just feel that you wish to live more than you want me to die."

"That is true. It must be difficult to be watched every minute of your day."

"It isn't as bad now as it was the first week. You learn how to tune them out and forget they are there."

My thoughts went back to the morning and I realized he was right. I had forgotten them as he pleasured me.

"You don't seem to be able to tune out your uncle."


"He's treated you badly, hasn't he?"

"I don't wish to talk about him. It's too lovely a day."

The pain in his voice made me sad for him. So I put it away and asked of other things.

"How long will it take us to reach the plateau?"

"Less than an hour. I'm sure you will find it worth the trip."

The air was fresh and a subtle scent hung in the air. I decided to ask him about it.

"Alexei, what is that odor?"

"It's the gilly flowers, Walter."

He reined in his horse, passed the basket to me and jumped to the ground. Taking a few steps off the main edge of the path, he plucked at a plant growing in a break of the rock wall. Walking back to where I sat he held the blossom up to me. I leaned over to pull the scent into my lungs, the white petals brushed softly against my nose.

"They use those in the oil that they rub on your skin."

"Yes, do you like the scent?"

"It's very nice."

He smiled at me before mounting his horse and leading me higher up the mountain. As he'd promised we reached the plateau not long after that. I stopped and just stared, we could see across the entire valley. The panorama was breathtaking. He'd been right about being able to see the colors of the gardens.

"Walter are you going to just sit there all day or come have lunch with me?"

I realized we'd been there long enough for him to dismount and spread out the blanket. His horse was tethered near the pool at the base of the waterfall I had yet to look at. I dismounted and led my horse over to take its place next to his.

The waterfall was not the strongest I'd ever seen but this time of year most of the snow that contributed to it had probably melted. The pool looked deep enough to swim in if you liked cold water. I knelt down and scooped up a handful of water. The cold water felt good after the dust of the trip.

Walking back to him I found that he'd spread the blanket so that we had a boulder to rest against, with the best view of the valley. I sat next to him.

"This is wonderful, Alexei. Thank you."

"You're welcome. Most of the townsfolk would not have thought to tell you of this. It puts no money in their pockets. Do you want to eat right away or wait for the wine to chill?"

"Wine? How long will it take to chill?"

"Maybe an hour."

"I can wait."


He leaned back against the boulder. I pointed out a couple of particularly colorful areas and asked about them. He answered my questions as to what type of plants grew there and offered to take me to see them close up.

After a short period of companionable silence he began to pull out our food. We had a loaf of the crusty bread that I had discovered to be very soft inside, three different types of cheese, a small roasted chicken, and several types of fruit.

"Shall I go get the wine, Alexei?"

"Yes, thank you."

He smiled at me as I hastened to my feet. At the pool I took a minute to splash water onto my face. What was happening to me? I was enjoying having a picnic, on a mountain, with my abductor.

"Walter? Do you see it?"

"Yes, Alexei. I'll be right there."


Walter came back around the boulder with the wine bottle in his hand. I noticed the water still dripping down his face but did not ask why. I wanted nothing to spoil the mood of the day.

I held out the plate with his half of the chicken resting on it. He took it from me and we ate quietly. After a while we were down to nothing but fruit and agreed we'd eat that later.

"Would you like to nap, Walter? Or I can show you the path to the top of the waterfall."

"How steep is the path? I'm not that graceful."

"You can manage, I'm sure."

"I think I'd like that."

I wasn't surprised when he reached to take my hand on a particularly tight spot in the trail. I was; however, surprised that he didn't let go. Not even after we reached the top.

His gasp, when I turned him so he could see the difference the extra hundred feet made in the view, erased all the bad memories of my uncle's visit.

His hand squeezed mine as he turned his head from side to side to take in the sights.

"Alexei, this is even more fantastic than from below. We must come back and bring canvas and paints. Not that I could do this justice…" He trailed off and stood so very still.

A bird soaring overhead brought him out of his trance and he chuckled softly. Turning, his eyes locked on mine and I fell into them. At least, that's what I thought was happening, right up until his lips touched mine.

Pulling back abruptly, he let go of my hand, and I was left swaying as he disappeared down the path. I slumped to the ground and sat there until I heard the Captain of the guards yelling for me. I walked to the edge to see them holding Walter, a red stain showing on his face.

"I'm here. I'm fine."

I turned to hurry down the path to see how much damage they had inflicted on him.

Reaching the plateau, I hurried to where they were still holding Walter.

"What did you do to him?"

"Lord, you were up here so long we became worried. When we got here and did not see you…"

"You thought he threw me over the edge, then what? What was he doing when you got here?"

"I was getting dressed! I had just bathed in the pool."

Now the water was barely above freezing. I almost grinned when I thought of the reason he must have been in the water. But he was glowering at me, a definite set-back and certainly not the way I'd wanted our afternoon to end. I turned to the guards and used my harshest voice.

"Leave us! I will see to his injury and we will be down within two hours."

The Captain signaled his men and they went back to their horses and started down the trail. When they were out of earshot I spoke to him.

"I am sorry, Walter. In the future I will make my orders more detailed to them so nothing else like this happens. Come over to the pool, so that I may clean your wound."

He followed me to the pool, sitting on a stone to make it easier for me to reach him. I ripped a piece of cloth from a less fancy part of my clothing and dipped it in the water. He winced as I dabbed at his split lip.

"At this rate I will be dead long before they get you on the altar." He grumbled at me as I bent to rinse out the cloth.

"I am very sorry, Walter."

"For heaven's sake stop apologizing. If you are really sorry, let me go."

"I can not do that."

He glared at me before jumping up and heading for his horse. I watched as he started down the trail, then hurried after him. I did not want him hurt again by reaching the bodyguards before I did. When we reached the carriage, I sent a man back for the blanket and basket.

We were most of the way back to the house before he spoke again.

"Do you think that I will come to love you?"

"No, but I think you might be the only sincere person there when I am sacrificed. You will certainly be the only one to wish me dead for just cause."

"How will it be done?"

"I will be placed upon the altar, then bound to it. The priest will cut out my heart, which will then be placed in the fire. Once all life is gone from me, I will be burned upon a pyre."

"God! How can you be so calm? You are a young man still, your life before you."

"What sort of life do you think I would have as a bastard son whose parents are both gone, with an uncle who only wants to see how close he can keep me to starvation? A month ago I was little more than skin and bones."

"But you could leave here. Go make your way in another country."

"Maybe, but this way I help what is left of my family, my mother's sister and my cousin. He's promised they will be safe now."

"And you believe him?"

"I must."

I turned away from him then so he would not see the doubt and fear in my eyes. I was surprised when his hand came to rest on my shoulder. Even more surprised when he pulled me back to rest against his chest, his strong arms wrapping around me securely.

"I would like to meet your aunt and cousin."

"We will visit them when you grow weary of the sights."

"Eleven months is not so very long. But I wish to send a message to my family, I had expected to be back home before then."

"Thank you, Walter."

"Do not thank me yet. I am still angry with this. I am not the kind of man you are and I resent the way you used me last night."

"I made you feel good this morning, did I not?"

"It would be a lie for me to say otherwise. That does not, however, change the fact that I was used without my permission last night. And before you say anything, do not say you are sorry."

That brought a small smile to my lips.

"I will not lie to you either, Walter. I am not sorry for the pleasure I received in you. What man would not be pleased to know he is the first?"

"What man indeed." He said grudgingly.

The carriage pulled up to the house then and he pulled away from me as the door was opened. I was beginning to believe that he still needed to keep his manly front for all concerned. That gave me an idea.

We spent the early evening strolling through the grounds before having dinner again on the terrace. When it came time to retire I sent the guards out of the room.

"Leave us, I have no fear that Walter will injure me. He had plenty of time to do so if he wished today. I will call if I need you."

He turned to look at me. His voice was gruff as he spoke.

"It is my turn to thank you. I do not like being watched so closely."

"In the carriage today, you offered me the time I want from you. I offer you the chance to keep as much privacy about what happens between us as I can."

I turned away to walk into the bathing chamber. I was seated in the warm water with my head back, eyes closed, when I felt the water move. Looking up, I watched as he settled in the water across from me. I smiled at him before I dropped my head back onto the pillow.

When the servant came to bathe me he spoke.

"Can we not do this ourselves?"

"Of course, if that is your wish. Leave us, we shall tend to our own bathing tonight."

The servants all left quickly, probably glad to have time to themselves. When I reached for the sponge he took it from my hand. I sat still as he bathed me, not at all surprised that his touch caused me to harden. I was surprised when he pushed my foreskin back to clean me thoroughly. When he reached for the pitcher to rinse my body I took the sponge from him.

He stood, statue-like as I washed him. I looked up at him for permission before I took his cock in hand to wash it. He nodded his consent. I was as careful with him as he had been with me. He was standing quite proud by the time I had finished. I rinsed him and then stepped away to reach for toweling. Again he took it from my hand and dried the water the air had not taken care of from my body.

Then he held the toweling out to me with a smile. I dried him carefully, then started toward the bedchamber.

"Wait. You have not been oiled."

"I did not expect…"

"I like the way it makes you smell."

I nodded, afraid to speak. I moved to lie on the bench. His hands were sure and strong. He relaxed me in ways none of the servants ever had. By the time he instructed me to turn over I was almost asleep. He chuckled as he helped me turn.

His hands took on a more teasing manner on my chest. He pinched my nipples, then leered when I moaned. When he reached my cock and found out just how sensitive the head was, he did not stop stroking until he'd wrung a climax from me.

My eyes were closed most of the way, but through the slit I saw him lift his hand, first smell my seed that had run down over his fist, then touch his tongue to it delicately. I bit the inside of my cheek to hold back a moan, then closed my eyes, completely unwilling to watch his reaction to my flavor.

When my breathing returned to normal, he steadied me as we made our way into the bedchamber. I took my place on the bed and waited, expecting him to stay as far from me as he had the night before. I couldn't stop the contented sigh as he pulled me to lie on his shoulder and his arm cradled me close.

"May I wake you in the morning as I did this morning?"

"Yes. Now sleep, I plan to make you take me out for the entire day tomorrow."

I sank into the soundest sleep I'd experienced since moving into the King's house a month before.


Alexei woke me the second morning in the same way as the first. Only this time we had no audience and I managed to hold back longer.

He seemed pleased that not only did I hold onto his hair, but also I helped direct his movements on me. The second time was even better than the first. When his finger brushed against my hole I arched up to him.

His eyes watched me as he caressed over it several times before pulling up off me to wet the finger thoroughly. When he slipped it inside me I hissed – but not with pain. I looked into the eyes watching me as he twisted his finger to rub the spot again.

"Alexei, please."

His head dipped and my cock disappeared into his mouth. I kept one hand in his hair as I used the other to caress his face. I could feel my cock's movement along his cheek. When a second finger joined the first I bucked up so hard I lifted us from the bed. His free hand moved up my chest to pinch my nipple.

I suddenly realized I was chanting his name.

"Alexei, Alexei, Alexei, Alexei, Alexeiiiiiiiii."

I felt the climax roaring through my body, heard his moan as I gripped him so hard that later he would wear a bruise on his jaw and I'd find a clump of his hair in my hand. The world went away for a few minutes and when I opened my eyes he was watching me, a little grin adorning his face.

With no thought, I pulled him to me and licked my taste from his mouth. Moving down, I tasted his throat, his shoulders, each nipple sucked and bitten lightly. Then I wrapped my hand around him and stroked him until he came, whispering my name.

Over the course of the next week, I asked him many questions when we were alone. And each day he showed me some new trick he knew that left me sated and sometimes senseless. It wasn't until the end of my first week with him that I got up the nerve to take him in my mouth. I was clumsy but he was so pleased that it made me determined to learn to do it well for him.

He had made no attempt to enter me again, and at first that pleased me. But on that last day of the first week I wished to give him as much pleasure as possible. Looking back, I realize that I loved him even then, but at the time I justified it as reciprocity.

So, after I came back to earth from his morning wake up, I told him I wanted to be taken.

"Alexei, I want you inside me this morning."


"You do enjoy that best, do you not?"

"Yes, but I'm taking so much from you now."

"Accepting, Alexei. Not taking."

"You really mean this?"

"You will learn that I do not say things unless I mean them. I may change my mind about things later but when it is said it is meant."

He threw his arms around me and covered my face with excited kisses. Then he guided me to my knees on the bed, pressing my shoulders down.

"This angle will be easier for you in the beginning."

I smiled against the pillow at his choice of words. He took a long time playing with me, making me slick and rubbing all the pleasure spots inside he had discovered. When his cock finally pressed inside me, I was ready.

I loved his small sigh as he sank into me. I even welcomed the weight of his heavy balls resting on mine. Once he was inside completely, he bent low and kissed a trail along my spine. The resulting shiver made him chuckle. So he kissed his way back to my neck before whispering in my ear.

"No one has ever made me feel as you do, Walter. The gods have seen fit to gift me a wonderful last year of life."

I felt the scald of tears and turned my face into the bed so he would not see them. I rocked with him as he moved sure and strong inside me. Just as I felt the hot flow of his seed inside, I heard the cursed voice of his uncle.

"Nephew, seems you learned your lessons well. And he looks quite delectable on his knees for you."

I felt his entire body tense up, his hands gripped me so tightly, I carried bruises for over a week. I, on the other hand, had the desire to kill. His grip was a warning and I waited to see what he would do.

Alexei straightened and pulled out of me abruptly. I moaned with the discomfort of the rough move. I heard his uncle chuckle, no doubt pleased with my reaction. Then Alexei slapped me hard on the ass and spoke.

"You may go back to sleep, Walter. I will wake you when I'm through talking with Sir Charles."

I slid flat on the bed as he rose from it. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him pull a robe around his body.

"Alexei, is he a good ride?"

"He is adequate."

"Only adequate? Then why do you keep him?"

"I told you my reasons. I do not require shooting stars, only release."

Their voices faded as they left the room. I left the bed and went to a spot where I could watch and listen but not be seen.

"I understand you have been playing tour guide for him."

"It is more for me than for him. Our country has many wonders that I never took the time to see before."

"It does indeed. I also hear that you are putting the guards out of your room at night and sending your groomers away."

"I have no need to be watched as I sleep and the guards have no need to know how often I use him. As for the other – he can take care of my body – gives him something to occupy his mind for a bit. He has strong hands."

"So, you are not becoming smitten with this man?"

"Of course not. Do you think I want anything other than his body? He hates me and would kill me if he thought he could get away with it."

"The Elders will be coming to check on you later today, so any plans you had made will have to wait. I told the cooks to prepare extra food for them. Make sure he knows the proper way to behave or the guards will punish him."

"It might be best to have a few of the guards take him somewhere for the day."

"No, the Elders wish to see the man you are wasting your seed in. Have him dressed presentably."

"Yes, Sir Charles. Is there anything else?"

"No. You may go back and use him again. That's probably an excellent idea, he should be docile if he is exhausted."

I watched as the hated man left. Alexei ordered the guards to leave, then sagged in the chair, his ramrod posture gone. Mindless of my state of undress and the fluid beginning to run down my legs, I went to him. Placing my hand on his shoulder, I offered silent support.

After a long minute he stood and led me back to his bed. I held him, waiting. Finally, he spoke.

"I hate him. I hope you understand that what I say and do in front of him is to protect you from him. If he thought for even a minute that you were such a pleasure, he would come after you. I will let you leave before my last day. I want you safely away while I still reign as King."

"You truly believe that?"

"How can I not? My mother believed him responsible for my father's death. She said that he wanted her. That he and my father fought about her. One of my earliest memories is of him raping her."

"And he raped you, didn't he?"

"No. My body was his price for giving my mother medicine. Not that it saved her, but it did ease her suffering."

His anguish cut through me. Coming from a tight knit, loving family I was appalled that his uncle had treated him this way. I had known only love from my uncles.

That is when my mind began to formulate the plan to save him. Putting my mouth close to his ear I spoke softly.

"Alexei, he surely has someone spying on us. You should do as he instructed, so they can report that back to him. We must make him believe the roles you have set for us."


"Yes, Alexei. You are no longer alone."

I placed my lips against his, saying with my kiss what I was not ready to say with words. When I pulled back, his eyes searched mine.

"Take me, Alexei. Make it rough so they will believe I am just a hole for you to use. Do not worry that you will hurt me, I am strong."

Over the next hour we put on a convincing show for anyone who was spying. He rode me hard and I bellowed as if in pain, but in the end my seed was as responsible for the mess on the bedclothes as his.


I had allowed the servants to see to my bath and oil my body. I much preferred Walter's attention, but I feared being aroused when they arrived if I allowed him to tend me.

When the guard announced that the Elders had arrived, we entered the formal parlor to greet them and Walter took up position behind me as I had instructed. Once everyone was seated, he sat on the small stool that was placed at the side of my chair. I waited for the Elders to address me.

"This is the man you have chosen to be your consort? He is not attractive, nor is he of our country. Why have you chosen him?"

While it is true that Walter does not meet most standards for attractiveness, he glows with all that is right within him and I found that most appealing.

"He is strong. I do not have to hold back my desires to prevent hurting him. Being from another land is better as well. He will be allowed to go home and never need to tell his family of this."

"We would prefer that you bed the young women of the village. We would all be blessed if the King of Summer left behind offspring."

"I can not do that. It is not my nature. As King it is my right to select my consort."

"Yes, of course. In the past other Kings had male consorts but still bedded the women sent to them."

"As I said, I can not."

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the color rising in Walter's cheeks, but he sat still as I had told him he must. Glancing at him quickly, I saw that his hands were balled into fists. I hoped the meeting would end quickly. I wanted so badly to reach out and take his hand, but could not. To do so would be to endanger him. That is when I knew that the hardest thing I would ever do in my life would be to watch him leave.

"Lord, it is time for your inspection."

I stood without a word and walked to the center of the room. Dropping the robe I was wearing, I waited for the old men to look and touch their fill. I hated being inspected as if I had no feelings. But even more, I hated the way the bolder ones of the group touched me as if I was theirs to do with as they pleased.

At one point, I was turned, saw Walter sitting with his eyes tightly closed, his bottom lip gripped between his teeth and a thin line of blood running from each fist. Somehow that made it both easier and harder, knowing it infuriated him.

When they finished, we ate dinner in the formal dining room; Walter again seated on a low stool. He ate the food I offered, again playing his role. Under the table he put a hand on my knee, the warmth a reminder that I was no longer alone.

I sent Walter to the bedchamber as soon as our dinner had been completed, with a command to be ready for my attentions. That earned a few lewd remarks as to his worth. I had never been so glad to see someone leave, as I was to say goodnight to the last Elder.

Making my way toward my room, I ordered the guards to stay outside. Anyone entering without being summoned would be dismissed. Stepping into the room, I found Walter waiting for me, his naked body gleaming in the moonlight.

He didn't speak, merely undressed me and led me to the bed. Once we were settled, his arms wrapped securely around me, the reaction hit. I shook as if plagued with the ague.

"I am here. Try to put it from your mind."

I pulled one of his hands up to kiss the crescent-shaped marks in his palm.

"It upset you as well."

"I wanted to kill the one who fondled you. Why should they have the right to treat you that way? You are giving your life for their ignorant sacrifice, at the least they could give you the privacy of your own body."

I smiled against the shoulder my head rested on. I had expected him to accept his position here, eventually, but had not expected him to care for me in any way. Turning my head so that I could see him, I slipped a hand up to cup his face. He turned and his lips pressed to mine. It was sweet from the dessert I had fed to him earlier, but soon turned needy.

He pulled me on top of him, amazing me once more with his strength. His legs parted so that our cocks nested together. Big hands pulled the pins from my hair to let it flow around us, the moonlight giving us just enough light to see each other well.

I rocked against him, enjoying the friction of our bodies as they slid and then caught. With his mouth opened for me to enter, I plundered him, again tasting the sweet nut pie from dinner. When I pulled back to breathe, he whispered.

"You are so beautiful. I can not bear the thought of your not being on this earth."

I had no words to answer that, so I bent to kiss him again. His hands moved down to grip my ass tightly, as he humped up against me, grinding us together. I whimpered into his mouth as my seed flowed between us. A few minutes later his heat joined mine.

Later, when I tried to move he clutched me. "No, stay. I want to feel your weight on me as I sleep."

"I am too heavy. We will be glued together."

"I don't care. Please, Alexei."

In answer, I snuggled my face into his throat, my sleep coming deep and dreamless.

The next morning I peeled myself from him when my need to relieve myself became desperate. He followed me into the pool after taking care of his own needs. As we soaked, I brought up my plans for the day.

"After we have breakfast, I thought we would go and obtain some paints and canvas."

"And go up the mountain?"

"Yes. You said you wanted to paint the landscape from there and if we do not do it soon the flowers will be gone. Would that please you?"

"And what will you do while I paint?"

"Admire a different type of scenery."

"Should I paint in the nude so that your view will be unobstructed?" He leered at me.

I was surprised to the point of snorting a laugh. "I think that would be best. That way you won't ruin your clothing with paint."

He nodded with a wicked smile. Without any additional discussion we hurried though our bathing. I gave instructions to the servants as we ate our breakfast, and we soon made our way to the main part of the village for the supplies he needed.

I was puzzled when he pulled me toward the apothecary shop that was across from the merchant's where I had intended to get his supplies.

"I need a few things, Alexei. I have money to pay for what I want."

"You are with the King, you do not need money."

I stood and spoke with the owner of the shop as he wandered among the aisles. Picking up several dried plants, he moved back toward me.

"These are exactly what I need."

"Lord, one of those herbs is very toxic."


"I mix it with my paint. It enhances the color. Do not worry, sir, I know full well the danger of ingesting this. It will be ground up into my paints and no one will eat the paint."

"No need for you to worry. Walter does not prepare my food. And I do not believe he wishes to kill himself. Wrap them for him, please."

We soon made our way to the shop I had been headed for and I watched again as he picked out the items he would need. It was quite a bundle when he finished and I nodded at the storekeeper when he insisted on paying for them. The herbs had been a pittance, but these supplies were far more expensive and I knew he wanted them to belong to him.

The day was beautiful with large puffy clouds floating overhead. There had been a light rain overnight, so the roads were not as dusty as normal and that made for a most pleasant trip up the mountain. I had ordered a pack mule to be brought along, and once the guard had it loaded with all the paraphernalia that had traveled with us in the carriage I turned to the Captain.

"Walter is going to be painting, so we will be on the mountain for the rest of the day. Do not expect us until sunset."

"Lord, please allow some guards to go at least to the edge of the plateau with you."

"No. I am in no danger. Walter knows what will befall him if he harms me."

"It is my duty to protect you, Lord."

"It is also your duty to obey me. We will be fine."

When we reached the plateau, Walter immediately took the bottles of wine and placed them in the stream. I spread out our blanket by the boulder as he began unpacking his art supplies.

"If I set up here will the view be as clear as you wish?" His eyes twinkled with his mirth.

"That should be just perfect, thank you."

I lounged back against the boulder, snacking on a piece of fruit as he put up the easel. He had picked a spot by a relatively flat ledge that curved out from the big boulder I rested against. Using that as a table, he laid out all the other supplies he had purchased.

When everything was arranged to his satisfaction, he turned to grin at me. I watched as he walked over to stand just a few feet away. His clothing began to fall to land next to me on the blanket. My cock showed its appreciation of this by rising underneath my clothing.

When he was naked, he gave me one last wicked grin and walked back to his easel. I groaned and he turned back to flash me a smug look. I covered my face and sighed.

It was going to be a long day.


I was very aware of his eyes on me at first, but soon I lost myself in the effort to do justice to the view. My attention was so riveted that I jumped when his hand touched my shoulder.

"Walter, you should come eat and get out of the sun for a while. Your skin is burning."

That is when I realized that I was indeed quite warm. My skin is not as fair as his is, but I had been traveling for several months and my flesh had not been exposed to the sun as it would normally have been at home.

"I'll go splash some water on it and get the wine."

He nodded and walked back to the blanket. I hurried to the pool to retrieve the wine. I had really started to notice the burn by then, so I stepped into the water, sitting to let it cool me down. Of course that made me shiver when I walked back to Alexei.

"You are going to make yourself ill, Walter."

"You sound like a mother hen. What do we have for lunch?"

He smiled and handed me a plate with cheese, nicely cut up fruit, a chunk of the bread. I sat cross-legged beside him, letting the air dry my body and enjoyed my lunch. When we'd finished, I pulled him down to lie next to me.

"Alexei, what would happen if you died before the date of the sacrifice?"

"Are you offering to give me an easier death? Is that the real reason you wanted the herbs?"

"I told you the reason for the herbs."

"You forget I was right here as you set up and mixed your colors. You never used any of the herbs you bought."

"I haven't gotten to the colors I'll need them for yet."

"You didn't answer my first question."

"I could try to give you heart failure in bed but I don't think that would be very entertaining for me. If you asked, I would help you die an easier death. I would rather you be allowed to live."

"I would as well. I can not change what fate has decreed."

"I do not believe that the future is set. Things change. Now, will you tell me what they would do?"

"I believe it has only happened once. The Elders decreed that one of the gods did not want to share and so had taken the King for himself."

"Was his body then burned?"

"His family was allowed to bury him in the family plot."

"So nothing else was done? They did not take his heart?"

"No, he was given intact to his family. Why are you asking all these questions?"

"I am just trying to understand."

Not wanting him to get any ideas about my thoughts, I let the matter drop. I distracted him from further conversation by kissing him soundly. Pulling at his clothing, I soon had him naked next to me. We kissed for several long minutes before I pushed him onto his back and straddled his body.

He watched me as I bent to kiss each nipple. Then I pulled on them gently with my teeth. He moaned and his eyes closed, his head tilting back. So I nuzzled his throat. His hands lay above his head, open and relaxed, but then tightened into fists when I rubbed the crown of his cock with my fingers.

Moving down, I practiced the new skills I was learning. His hips lifted, his voice cried out my name. I reveled in making him sound so wild and needy. I was pleased, too, with my continued improvement in technique. This time when he climaxed, I didn't lose a drop. Lying next to him, I held him close as his heart calmed and his breathing evened out.

"If you get much better at that, Walter, you will surely cause my heart to give out."

"I just wish to give you the pleasure you give to me."

We dozed then and when we woke, it was late in the day. I dressed and loaded the mule. Before we mounted for the trip down, I secreted the herbs underneath the paints and other items in the case.

Over the next few weeks we made many trips to the mountain. It was the one place we felt that we had some privacy. In the fall I painted the vista of the trees with the riot of fall colors on them. I hated the coming of winter because it heralded the end of our trips there.

His uncle had stayed away for months; Alexei told me his uncle normally spent the summer at his other home. With his return came the return of greater stress for Alexei. We had just finished our morning lovemaking and had entered the pool when he came in. I smelled his odious stench before he got close to us.

"Nephew, how are you?"

I sat quietly and waited for whatever charade he had planned to play out.

"I am in good health, thank you, Sir."

"I see he is still here. I expected you to be tired of him by now. Is he at least properly broken in now?"

"He has accepted his place. He obeys me. I require nothing else from him." After spending the last months with him I could hear the strain in his voice.

"Have you taken up painting? I saw the landscape on the easel in the parlor."

"Walter painted that, he sketches as well."

"He has talents, then. He does not look the sort to be artistic."

"I did not know one had to look a particular way to have talent."

"Well, he certainly does not have the look of a male whore, either, but he seems to fulfil the role."

I tried to turn off my mind at that point. His words should not have bothered me, but they did. I did not like being thought of as a whore, not even by the likes of him. I looked over to see Alexei's eyes fastened on me and read the lie in them.

"As a whore, he would fail, miserably. His distaste for the act would send him to the poorhouse."

Sir Charles laughed then and turned to leave but swung back at the last minute.

"I want the landscape."

Inside I screamed no, on the outside I remained calm. The picture was a reminder of a splendid day spent with a wonderful man. The idea of his having any part of us was abhorrent to me.

"I wish to keep it, Sir Charles. You may, of course, have it when I am gone."

"Very well. I will expect you to come for winter festival. Leave the whore here."

He left as I erupted from the pool. Alexei was out and wrapped around me before I could exit the room. His voice was a low hiss in my ear.

"What do you intend to do, Walter? Anything you do to him will get you killed. Do not leave me to face the rest of my year alone."

The idea of dying was not what stopped me – it was the idea of leaving him alone, of leaving him to die. By this point I had most of my plans made. I had arranged for his aunt and cousin to go to my homeland in the spring. I had no intention of taking him away and leaving them at the mercy of Sir Charles.

My family had written that they would give them a small cottage that my elderly aunt had once lived in. I wanted them well away so that his uncle could not make victims of them when Alexei was gone. I had not even discussed this with him yet. The letter had been burned to keep anyone from learning of it.

"Will your aunt and cousin be at the winter festival with you?"

"No, the only reason I will be there is so he can brag about his family providing this year's King."

"How long will you be away?"

"A week. You do not need to worry. I will leave very explicit orders for the guards."

"I would like to visit with your aunt while you are away."

I had met them and found both to be sweet and kind. They had let me know that they accepted Alexei as he was. Unsaid, was the fact that they were glad he had companionship.

"I will leave orders for you to visit them."

"Good. Come let me bathe you, so we may dine, else you may be devoured."

He chuckled as I led him back to the water. Winter festival would be a good time for his aunt and cousin to disappear. Now, I just needed a distraction to keep anyone from looking for them.

During the night the perfect solution came to me. The next morning I announced to Alexei that I needed more paint supplies. The thinner used for my paints would start a very nice fire. His guards didn't seem to care that the crazy consort wanted to paint at Alexei's Aunt Rose's small cottage.

She and I spoke quietly as her daughter, offering them tea, distracted the guards. It was so very hard to pretend I knew nothing as he mourned their loss when he was told the house had burned to the ground.


My uncle had ordered me to keep him company the last night of my stay there. At first, I thought he would want to force himself on me again. I almost wish he had when I found out the real reason.

"Alexei, Walter seems to be fond of you."

I laughed, hoping to avert his attention from the subject by making light of it.

"No he isn't. He considers me a rapist. He will be relieved to see me sacrificed. As a matter of fact, he will probably leave town before the ashes cool on my pyre."

"Maybe he would find my company more agreeable. I would be willing to give him anything he wants."

"He wants his freedom, nothing more. He is not a pauper to be dazzled by wealth. If he were, he would not still be fighting me."

"I understand he does not fight you as he once did."

"That is only because he knows I will just have him tied and do as I please with him. He has learned it is easier to accept than be hurt."

"He would learn that here, if need be. The challenge of an unwilling partner is quite appealing."

"The only reason he accepts me, is that he sees the end. If you put him in a situation with no end, he will kill you or himself."

"You truly believe that?"

"Yes, I do. He has said as much to me. That, added to the fact that his family knows where he is and when he expects to go home, would make it most unlikely that you would enjoy his company for long."

"When you let him contact his family why did he not ask them to come rescue him?"

"He pities me."

I allowed my fear for Walter to show in my eyes, knowing my uncle would misread me. He nodded slowly.

"Well then, I had best find someone else to amuse me. It is late; we should get some rest. You will pardon me if I do not see you off in the morning?"

"Of course, I know you are a busy man."

I did not sleep well that night, and when I managed to doze off, I had evil dreams.

I returned from my uncle's house to find that my aunt and cousin had died in a fire that had burned their cottage to the ground. Even though my heart was broken, the tragedy did lift one worry from my shoulders. That left me with only the need to protect Walter.

He held me as I mourned for them, letting me cry like a child. Eventually I slept, feeling safe in his arms. Some time in the wee hours of the morning, I woke. He was curved around my body; his cock nestled between my cheeks. His lips sucked gently at the juncture of my throat and my shoulder.

His hand was gripping me firmly, thumb rubbing over the slit. I reached back to rub my hand along his flank.

"You smell and taste so good, Alexei. I never dreamed it could be this good with a man."

"I guess I have ruined you for women."

"Yes, I would say that you have."

I turned my head for a kiss. As his tongue entered me, I found myself wanting him inside me. After what my uncle had done to me, I never expected to want sex that way again. With Walter, I felt it would be right. I knew he would never hurt me.

I pulled away from him to get the oil and he rolled onto his stomach.

"Not like that, Walter."


"I want you inside me."

"But I…"

"Just go slowly and make sure you are very slick."

I positioned myself on my back and pulled my legs up high. He knelt; there was just enough light for me to see him coating his erection with the oil. He reached out tentatively to stroke the remainder over my hole. His finger probed cautiously. I lifted my hips to encourage him. He sucked in his breath.

"Alexei, are you sure? Be sure, because I do not think I can stop once I start."

"I won't ask you to stop. I want this, Walter. I want you."

Bending low, he kissed me fiercely, stealing my breath. Then he straightened to position himself at my entrance. He pushed into me slowly, and when he was in all the way, he took another kiss.

"I now understand the reason you enjoy this so much."

"Tight, isn't it?" I flexed my muscles around him and reveled in his gasp.

"Stop that!"

"Why?" Although I was sure I knew the reason.

"I would like it to last some little time."

He began to move in me then, slow and easy. I clung to the strong arms on either side of me, wanting to crawl inside him and be with him always.

After some time had passed, he made a low growling noise. Before I knew what was happening, he was on his knees and had me pulled up to straddle his lap. Kissing me deeply, before grinning against my lips he whispered: "That is better, now I can touch more of you."

To illustrate his point, he grabbed my ass with both hands and squeezed. I wrapped my arms around his neck and held on. He rocked us then, his movements becoming stronger as he neared his climax. I sucked new marks on his throat as my own body drew closer. His movements were causing his stomach to press and rub my erection.

His hands were all over my back and ass, rubbing, kneading, sometimes pinching. I gasped as he drove up hard into me, filling me with his heat. His lips caressed my ear as he spoke.

"You are mine, now, forever."

I clung to him humping against his body and quickly covered him with my juices. We stayed in that position until his legs began to cramp, then stretched out once more. Lying next to him I listened as his breathing evened out and when I knew he slept I allowed my sorrow to escape in silent sobs.


For the next few weeks I kept my silence about his aunt and cousin. The letter from home said that *my* widowed aunt had moved back to her family. I smiled and felt relieved that part of my plans had worked so well.

I had been a little nervous that the ruins of the house would tell the tale, but no one seemed inclined to search them in any way. So it was time to move to the next part of my plan. I ground the herbs I had purchased, adding to them certain things I had gathered late in the summer and early fall, keeping them with my art supplies.

I had planned to wait until very close to the end of his year to use them, but fate had different ideas.

Alexei had been very enthusiastic about allowing me to make love to him. We had agreed that we would only do that late at night when there was almost no chance of being observed. So all of the times I entered him were completed in darkness. He still took me when the mood struck and we were observed often. I had learned to ignore them and turn my pleasure into mock pain and anger.

But one night we had drawn it out so long and the climax had been so hard that I fell asleep on his back. His uncle picked that next morning to visit – early. He found us in the position we had gone to sleep, my cock still lodged inside Alexei. His loud voice woke me.

"Guards, come here! Seize that man, he has raped the King!"

I was pulled roughly from the bed. Alexei was screaming at them to let me go. The last thing I saw before they dragged me from the room was Alexei falling to the floor as a blow delivered by his uncle left him unconscious.

I was thrown into a cell in the cellar under the church. For the next week I saw no one except my jailer and the rats that shared the cold space with me. When I finally did see someone else, I was sickened by his presence.

I heard his voice and readied myself for him as best I could. Being naked afforded no hope of any dignity.

"Walter, I came to tell you what a lucky man you are."


"Yes, lucky. There was no permanent damage done to my nephew. He is still suffering headaches from the blow you gave him…"

I threw myself at the bars at that point, not because he was lying but because he had hurt my lover. He stood and laughed as I howled like an animal. I stopped when my energy was gone and sank down onto the floor.

"I also came to make you an offer."

I sat quietly and waited, sure that his offer would turn my stomach.

"Do you want to hear it?"

"Just say what you came here to say and leave me alone."

"The Elders will never allow you to go back to the King's residence. Alexei keeps telling them to let you return to your homeland. They want you punished for your abuse of the King. They examined him you see, and the results convinced them you must have raped him more than that one night. He has several scars."

"I never hurt him." I knew I should be silent but I could not bear letting him say that I was to blame for the scars he had left.

"Surely, you do not expect to be believed?"

That time I held my tongue.

"Well, I offered a compromise to them. I will see you punished. Then I will hold you prisoner at my home until after the sacrifice. They will allow you to leave after that to avoid problems with your homeland."

"I would rather rot in this cell than keep company with you."

"Suit yourself. But be aware that Alexei's life could be less pleasant than it is now and the Elders would never know."


He laughed then, a horrible, demented laugh. "I will just let you think about it for a few more days. You may decide that a warm spot in my bed is preferable to a cold stone floor."

He left me then; I crawled into the corner of the cell and tried to figure out what to do.


It had been over a week since my uncle had found us sleeping. My vision was still blurry from the hard blow he had given me. I knew that Walter was still alive but I had been unable to convince the Elders to send him home.

My uncle had brought in his physician to examine me while I was still unconscious. The cowardly fool had told the Elders that my previous injuries were the result of Walter's rapes. Anything I might have said concerning how I was injured would not be believed.

I was resting when the Captain of the guards came to see me.

"Lord, may I speak privately with you?"

"What is it, Captain?"

"Fresh air might do you some good, a short ride perhaps, on the grounds, so that we do not need to take a contingent of guards. You will be safe on the grounds with just me in attendance."

I nodded to show I understood.

"That is an excellent idea, Captain. Have two horses saddled for us. I will be ready in a few minutes."

In a short while I was striding down the steps and mounting a horse for a short ride. He waited until we were far enough away from the house to have privacy.

"What did you wish to talk to me about, Captain."

"Your consort, Lord."

"What about him? Tell me quickly."

"Your uncle is attempting to force him to share his bed."

"What? How?"

"He told him the same story that he told the Elders. Threatened to make your last days harder if Walter will not consent. Walter must also consent to Sir Charles' punishment."

"No, that can not happen. I must get word to him. The Elders did say he could leave after the sacrifice."

"Your uncle does not intend to let him leave."

"How do you know this?"

"My cousin works in his house. He has been bragging for some time that he would have Walter after you are gone. This has just given him a way to do it now and rub your nose in the situation."

"He wants to hurt me even more than he has already. This is my fault. Walter will suffer because I could not bear to be alone."

"Lord, please. We can not be out here long, the others report to him."

"I understand. Why have you come to me with this? You know there is nothing I can do."

"Together we can. I will take Walter a message. Among the three of us we should be able to formulate a plan."

"Why are you doing this?"

"Sir Charles raped my younger sister. She was only thirteen, and died trying to bring his son into the world."

"I have never heard of any bastard children of my uncle."

"That is because he killed the child. I was away or I would have tried to stop him. I have pretended to believe his version of the story but my cousin told me the truth."

I heard the bitterness and hate in his voice so I decided to trust him.

"Give me this night to try and make a plan. We'll ride again tomorrow and I will give you a message for Walter."

By that time we had made the circuit of the grounds and were near the house again. We parted at the steps. I did not sleep that night – part of me feared that my uncle would show up to accuse me of conspiracy – the rest tried to figure out how to keep Walter safe and get him free.


Ten days into my imprisonment, the Captain of Alexei's guards came to visit me. I was surprised to say the least, but stood and walked closer to the bars when he motioned to me. His hand reached through, I instinctively took what he held out.

Looking down I found a lock of Alexei's hair that had been curled tightly, then tied with a ribbon. I closed my fist around it, knowing that I would need to hide it well or dispose of it later.

"Listen carefully, Walter. My Lord Alexei and I are trying to find a way to set you free. He wants you to flee the country once we do that."

"I can not leave him to die."

"Would you kill his heart, before they kill his body?"

"What do you mean?"

"He feels great guilt for picking you as his consort. Had he not done that, his uncle would not be planning to make you his whore."

"I know what that bastard wants. I told him I'd rather rot here. He said I would be released after the sacrifice."

"He lies! He has no intention of letting you leave. He just wants you now so he can torture Lord Alexei by making him witness your shame."

"I assumed that was part of it. He is a foul creature to treat his kin this way."

"He is a dangerous man as well. Lord Alexei wants you free and safely away."

"Tell him I will not leave without him. It would probably be easier for me to get away if Sir Charles thinks me subjugated. I will accept Sir Charles' offer."

"You will be beaten in the Town Square. Lord Alexei will be forced to watch. While I know that will be hard for him, it will not be as hard as knowing what his uncle will do to you afterward."

"Yes, he has first hand knowledge. Tell him it must be this way."

"I will give him the message, but he will not be pleased."

I heard the resignation in his voice. He turned to walk away and I called him back. Leaning against the bars, I gave him a more personal message.

"Tell my Lord that it is my body only that will be touched. The parts of me that matter have only been touched by him and will ever only be touched by him. I am strong, I will survive to grow old with him."

"I pray that you are right."

I watched him walk away before moving back to the dark corner of my cell. Sitting with my back to the wall, I twined Alexei's hair around my fingers, brought it up to rub against my lips and breathed in the scent of the gillyflowers.

Then I prayed for Alexei to have the strength he would need. My words had been bold, but I had faith in our love, albeit unspoken, to get us through the coming ordeal.

When the guard came with my meal, I charged ahead.

"Please tell Sir Charles that I wish to speak to him."

He grunted in reply and walked away. It was late in the evening when Sir Charles stood outside my cell door.

"Have you considered my offer?"

I kept my head bowed as I answered.

"Yes. I will do as you wish."

"A man who sees reason. Think of it this way, Alexei's year is almost at a close. After the sacrifice, you will go free."

"Yes, free. That is all I really want, to be free to return to my homeland."

He turned from me to the guard. "Have the Elders and Lord Alexei notified that the prisoner will be punished on the morrow, at noon, in the town square."

"Yes, Sir Charles."

"And give him some water to wash, he stinks."

I dipped my head lower and bit my tongue to keep back my desired retort. I guess he could not smell his own odor. He left without another word. When my jailer brought me the water, I used a small amount of it to swallow Alexei's tightly tied hair. No matter what fate had in store for me I would have a part of my lover with me.



I had waited impatiently for the Captain to return from seeing Walter, my horse saddled and ready for riding. He looked grim and my fear spiked. I am not sure how I kept my voice even as I berated him for keeping me waiting. He bowed his head as he made his apologies.

Once we were away from the house I turned to look at him.

"How is he?"

"Determined, strong, foolish."

"His health?"

"He has not been abused, merely kept nude and with little food and water."

"What did he have to say?"

"I would tell you the most important part first. He said, 'Tell my Lord that it is my body only that will be touched. The parts of me that matter have only been touched by him and will ever only be touched by him. I am strong I will survive to grow old with him.' "

"What does he mean his body touched?" I could hear the note of hysteria that was creeping into my voice.

"He is going to tell Sir Charles that he will go along with the punishment. He is going to convince Sir Charles that he is crushed. I do not know what he has planned from that point."

"No! He can not do that! He has no idea of what my uncle will do to him."

"Lord, please. You must get control. You will only add to your uncle's pleasure if he sees that Walter means so much to you. It might even make him hurt Walter more to torture you. I looked into Walter's eyes, Lord, he is strong; he will survive. Your love has made him strong, take strength from his love for you."

"Love? A love with no chance in this life."

"I do not believe that. I do not know his plan but I am sure it is a good one."

"We shall pray that is true."

We were silent as we made the rest of our circuit of the grounds. I spent the rest of the day in the small chapel offering my prayers to any god who might take pity and help us. By the evening I was calm and managed to hide my panic when the message came that Walter was to be punished in the square the next day.

It was spring and the next day was warm by the standards of the season, but not warm enough to be paraded out in public naked. Walter kept his head down and did not look at those around him. He did not struggle as they tied him to the post, nor did he respond in any way to the verbal taunting of the crowd.

His stoicism acted to help me stay in control. If he could take this, I would not make it harder by allowing my pain to add to his. I hid my hands beneath my clothing so no one would see the fists I was making. I had not felt so impotent since the night I had traded my body for medicine for my mother. I was learning that physical pain was easier to bear than watching the man you love being hurt.

I groaned inside when I saw who had been chosen to administer Walter's whipping. Sir Charles had chosen the largest and strongest of his contingent of guards. It was only the fact that I knew he wanted Walter that kept me still. He would not let him be beaten to death.

The leader of the Elders held up his hands for silence, then spoke.

"This man has broken the law. He laid hands on Lord Alexei and caused him injury, nearly killed him. As punishment he will receive twenty lashes. Let the sentence be carried out."

The long whip was shaken out, the strong arm lifted, the whistle and crack of the whip the only noise to be heard until the wet sound of skin being sliced open was added. That was followed by a low moan. Walter's head lifted then and his eyes fastened on mine.

I tried to send my love for him through that link. It seemed to work temporarily. He made no sound with the next three strokes. The fourth was delivered to overlay the first and he screamed. I heard my uncle's sigh of appreciation at the expression of pain he was responsible for and wished for a blade to slit his throat.

Walter blessedly lost consciousness with the tenth blow. His weight pulling on the ropes caused his wrists to start running with blood as well as his back. When he was finally cut down, his body dropped like a stone to the ground.

"Alexei, you may have your people attend him. Then have him brought to my house this evening."

I summoned the Captain and issued brief orders. I know my uncle was doing this to stab at me. By giving me the job of nursing him, he ensured I would see Walter's pain up close. But that didn't matter; what mattered was that I would have a short time with him, to offer what comfort I could.

He was placed face down in a wagon for the trip to the house. Once there, I pushed the others away and cleaned his wounds myself. Several of the cuts were deep, one cut to the bone on his shoulder. I pulled the edges together and stitched them, glad that he was out and did not feel that part. He will carry the scars for all of his life. I covered him with a light sheet and waited for him to awaken. I had laudanum near-by to ease his pain.

As I waited, I washed the rest of his body carefully, pulling the sheet away from a small area at a time. He woke with a loud groan that sliced through my heart.

"Walter, I'm here. I have laudanum."

"No, that will make me too groggy. I must have my wits about me."

His hand flailed out blindly as the tears he couldn't stop ran from his eyes. I took his hand in mine and he squeezed down on it.

"In my art supplies, I have the herbs I bought. One of those mixed with a cream of some sort will ease the pain."

I turned to the Captain, the only one I had allowed to stay in the room and barked an order.

"His supplies are in the parlor. Bring them."

He ran from the room. I leaned down to whisper in his ear.

"I am sorry, Walter. God! How I want him dead. Why did you give in to him?"

"Had to. Only way to have a fighting chance. Couldn't go down without trying." His voice was little more than a whisper.

"Stubborn fool."

"Are we alone?"


"I love you, Alexei. No matter what happens after today, I will never regret what we have had."

"Fool, pigheaded fool." I pressed my lips to his cheek then whispered; "I love you."

"Lord, here are the supplies."

I pointed to the floor by the bed. The Captain knelt, opened the case so that Walter could point to what he needed. I took the pouch he indicated and mixed the amount he directed into the cream he normally used on his hands after cleaning the paint from them.

"Give me something to bite on, I don't wish the servants to carry tales to him of my screaming."

Picking up a small pillow, the Captain slit it with his dagger, and we rolled the cloth into a tight gag for him. Looking up at the Captain, I asked his help.

"Hold on to his hands, please. Walter, I will do this as quickly as I can."

The Captain squatted next to the bed and took hold of the hand I released as Walter held out his other one. Pulling the sheet away from his body, I used as delicate a touch as I could but he still screamed against the gag.

When I finished, he let the Captain loose. I watched as the Captain shook his hands to get the blood flowing again. I helped pull the gag from Walter's mouth. Picking up the cloth I had used to wash him, I wiped the sweat from his face.

The Captain rose and moved to stand at the door but turned his back to us. I sat holding Walter's hand until the ointment did its job. He pushed up slightly to look at me.

"How are you, Alexei?"

I laughed at the ridiculousness of his worrying over me when he was the one with his back cut to ribbons. He smiled and pulled me down so that he could lean over me. His mouth covered mine; I held his face since that was the only place I was relatively sure did not hurt.

"I have missed you, Alexei."

"And I you, Walter. We will not have much time. I have been ordered to send you to him later."

"I assumed as much. Are you sure we can trust the Captain?"

"I believe he wants my uncle bested. He is the one who told me of my uncle's plans."

"Will there be any occasion soon for you and your uncle to share a meal?"

"I would have said no, but I am sure he will want to flaunt his hold on you in front of me."

"Good, that will work well. There is another pouch in my kit, hidden underneath the paints."

I moved from the bed to search the paint kit. I found the pouch he spoke of. He took it from my hand to open it carefully.

"I had planned to drug you before the day of the sacrifice. Ingesting a small portion of this will make you appear dead. Your body functions will be so slowed that even most physicians will believe that you are dead."

"That is why you asked all the questions about King's dying before the sacrifice. I don't believe this will work, Walter. The King I told you of had family who loved him. Sir Charles will probably have them move the date forward and pretend I am still alive."

"Not if he is out of the picture."

"What do you mean?"

"We shall give it to him first. Once he is gone, then we wait until the day before your sacrifice and you will just go quietly to sleep. They will probably assume it to be a malady that runs in the family."

"Does it work through the system or do you need an antidote?"

"Given enough time the body will come around, but I do have an antidote that I will give you as soon as we are safe."

"Are you saying that my uncle will wake in his crypt?"

His eyes stared into mine. "Is that a problem?"

"Only if we do not cut the bell cord."

I had never thought of myself as cold but my uncle had hurt too many people I loved. Caused too many deaths. I felt the gods would want him to suffer.

Some may wonder at my willingness to put my life in Walter's hands, but if I were wrong about him it would shorten my life by only a day. And the death he offered would be an easier one. I called to the Captain to join us.


The Captain came to sit on the floor by the bed when Alexei called to him. I was still not sure we could completely trust him but I was willing to let Alexei make that decision.

"How will we do this, Walter? I hate the idea of your being with him any longer than absolutely necessary."

"First, Alexei, tell me what it is that he enjoys."

"Why on earth would you ask that?"

"Because I plan on giving him as few reasons as possible to find pleasure with me."

"I understand, but I am afraid that might make him so angry that he beats you."

"I would rather have him beat me than use my body for his pleasure." I saw the pained look in his eyes and struggled to sit so I could hold him. He allowed it as I whispered to him. "You did what you had to do, it makes you no less a man. Do you feel I am less, for coming to enjoy what we have?"

He turned and buried his face in my throat and I felt his lips suck for just a moment. Pulling away he went to summon a servant.

"Bring us food and water."

We were all silent as we waited for the servant to return. As soon as I saw the water I felt thirst. Only the pain had kept me from feeling it sooner. I would have gulped it down if Alexei had not stopped me.

"Sip, Walter, you do not want to be getting sick right now."

I knew he was right, so I sipped the water between the bites he held out to me. He talked as he fed me, telling me of his uncle's twisted desires. When my hunger and thirst were sated, we gathered closer together to talk of my plans.

I showed them the amount that would be needed to fake a death.

"Should it be added to food or maybe wine?" the Captain asked.

"Either will work. If placed in food it should be something of a strong flavor. The taste is not bad but it is enough different to tip off most palates."

"That should not matter with him. That foul weed he partakes of should cover most any taste." Alexei sneered as he spoke.

"I would suggest that it not be done for several days. If done too soon, Walter will be suspect. I hate that it will leave you with him, but I see no other way for your safety."

"I agree Alexei. I also think we need to find a way to give it to him so that you will not fall under suspicion."

"Excuse me, Walter, but I feel that is less important. Lord Alexei is the King. He has a death sentence all ready. They would not bother to avenge Sir Charles' death if they believe it to be Alexei. Sir Charles does have enemies among the Elders. More than one of them would be glad to see him dead."

"Then it is just a matter of getting it in his food."

"Walter, he will more than likely treat you as a servant. It will be more a matter of distraction and getting the dosage to you to add."

"Lord Alexei, my cousin works there."

"I do not wish to involve anyone else in this. The more people involved, the more chance of failure."

"I understand, Lord..."

He was about to say more but the man who had administered my beating that morning marched into the room.

"It is time for the prisoner to go to Sir Charles."

I looked at Alexei, knowing the pain in his face was reflected in mine. I rose stiffly and followed the man from the room without a word of protest. I was marched through the streets naked, no doubt to add to my feeling of vulnerability. Sir Charles could have no clue that allowing Alexei to care for me had strengthened us both for the coming ordeals.

I entered the house determined to give Sir Charles as little satisfaction as possible. He looked up as I was ushered into the room, standing he walked around me. Without warning his hand raked over one of the whip marks on my back. I cringed but managed to keep my pain silent.

"What is this mixture that has been smeared on you?"

"Herbs mixed with cream to help with healing." I did not mention its pain relieving aspects for fear he would order it washed off.

"Has my nephew taken up doctoring? Or is this something used on the horses."

"I do not know, Sir Charles."

He walked away from me calling over his shoulder, "Take him to my bedchamber. You may rest until I am ready for you."

I followed the servant up the winding stairs and was shown into a room. The smell of tobacco was even stronger here than it had been downstairs. The room was opulent, the bed large. I walked over to the window, sat carefully on the window seat and opened the window for fresh air. Cold be damned, I needed to breathe.

He did not make me wait long; I was both grateful and disturbed. I had always been one to stand up and face difficulty, but this was more than I had ever been burdened with. He stood staring at me for a long minute.

"Close the window and come here."

I did as I was told and soon stood in front of him with my head down.

"Look at me!"

I lifted my head and met his eyes. His hand reached out and rubbed over my cheek. I managed to stay still while gritting my teeth.

"I can see why my nephew was attracted to you. You are not a handsome man but you do have a presence about you. Are you as strong as you appear?"

"I am strong enough."

His hand raised and I was backhanded, hard. I felt my lip split and the blood start to flow. I made no effort to staunch the flow.

"You will address me properly when I speak to you. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Sir Charles."

"Good! Get on the bed."

I moved across the room to lie down on my stomach on the bed. I heard the sounds as he moved around the room and all too soon his knee was pushing my legs apart. When I did not comply quickly enough his hand came down hard on my back. I grunted with the pain and was very glad that the cuts had been treated with the herbal salve.

I didn't manage to keep back the scream as he entered me. Alexei had always made sure he was slicked well with oil before he entered me. And not once had he rammed into me in so vicious a manner. The bastard made no concession to my pain or the pull and tear of my flesh. When he was finished I lay bleeding and sore.

"Get out of my bed. Go sleep in the corner." He pushed me so that I fell from the bed.

I crawled across the room to the corner where I had noticed a blanket earlier. I lay upon it, sickened by his stench on me, and the feel of my blood mixed with his seed running from my body. Soon, blessed sleep pulled me down, my body too abused to stay alert any longer.


Walter had been at my uncle’s house for a week before I was summoned to dinner. I was shocked at the change in his appearance, but kept that to myself as best I could. I wanted to comfort him, but knew I must make every effort to keep my uncle focused elsewhere.

I had brought the amount of the herbs Walter had indicated to me, and was prepared to get them to him at the first possible moment.

I knew that the Captain’s cousin was primed as well to help with the effort. The Captain had convinced me that the assistance was necessary.

"Alexei, so good to see you. I am pleased that you could take time to dine with me."

"I did not believe that I had any choice in the matter. Did you not wish to flaunt your new bed warmer?"

"I really do not understand why you enjoyed him, Alexei. He is really nothing special. You were much more sport."

"Maybe you just do not know how to get the proper response. Or mayhap I ruined him for others."

It was a dangerous game I was playing but I had to take something back before he was left to die.

"Do you feel that you learned that much from me, boy?"

"I take a different approach, that is all. Sometimes a little kindness goes a long way."

"Kindness is weak, boy, have I not told you that?"

"Yes, Sir Charles."

He turned to Walter with an order. "Bring me a glass of wine and one for the King as well."

Walter moved to the cabinet and poured two glasses to bring to us. He handed the first to my uncle and as he held out the second to me, one of the servants dropped a platter. All heads turned except ours. I pressed the small cloth of herbs into Walter’s hand.

He kept it tucked into his hand as he moved to help pick up the tray. After that he knelt next to my uncle’s chair and waited.

It was several minutes of thrust and parry conversation before my uncle issued his next order to Walter.

"Bring me my dinner, Walter. Make yourself useful in some way."

Walter rose carefully and moved to do as he was bid. Soon my uncle had a plate of food sitting in front of him.

I watched as he ate, barely touching the food that Walter had put in front of me. I had seen the small cloth peeking from under the edge of my plate. I tucked it away quickly to dispose of it when I reached my residence.

It was not long before my uncle had completed his meal. I waited, having no clue as to how long it would take the herbs to do their job.

Walter was sitting next to my uncle’s chair, at his feet. I cringed each time he caressed Walter’s head, wanting to rip his hand away.

"Alexei, now that Walter is no longer a part of your life you should make the Elders happy and bed the girls they wish you to. I give my word that any child you sire I will adopt and raise as my own."

The thought was far from comforting. Again, I felt the need to jab at him and spoke slowly.

"Sir Charles, I would not leave a child in your gentle hands."

"Nephew, you cut me to the quick. I would love the child and give it the best of everything."

"Until it was old enough to share your bed?"

"If she turned out as pretty as her father, I might allow her to give me a real heir."

"I would cut off my manhood before I fathered a child for you to raise." I could not keep the sneer from my voice.

"Alexei, is that any way to talk to your father?"

To say I was stunned would be an understatement. Then my outrage came to the fore.

"You lie! My mother told me who my father was. How dare you lie to me now."

I was on my feet standing over him, my fury raging.

He smirked at me and I knew it to be his way of twisting a knife in my gut. I moaned in horror at rising to his bate. I forced myself to sit back down.

I risked a quick look at Walter to get control of my emotions. Seeing him sitting so quietly, head down, seemingly subdued, I calmed. I sat back to await the ‘death’ of my uncle. Mercifully, the wait was short.

As my uncle began to choke, Walter held out the wineglass, his face looking concerned. I watched, enjoying the flush of color that rose to Sir Charles' face as he tried to breathe. I leaned toward him, patting his back.

"Sir Charles, what is it?" Putting my lips near his ear I hissed, "You will never hurt anyone I love again, you smelly old bastard."

His eyes widened and I knew he understood. He clawed at me, but Walter's strong hands gripped his and pulled him back. Pushing him down, to lie on the floor, Walter continued his solicitous act. The servants hated him, so none of them made a move to help in any way.

Sir Charles waved his hands, eyes panicked, everyone except Walter and I stood and watched. We fussed over him, making the charade complete. I did not order his physician to be called until his struggles stopped.

"You – go for Sir Charles' physician."

As we waited for the man to arrive, I dismissed most of the servants, keeping just the Captain and his cousin there to act as witnesses. The physician arrived and hurried to my uncle's side.

"What happened?"

"We ate dinner and he was talking when suddenly he began to choke. We offered wine and Walter tried to help him but he just turned bright red and then stopped breathing."

We stood back as the physician worked over him for several minutes. Finally, he raised his head.

"I am sorry, Lord. Your uncle is dead."

"That can not be, he was in fine health."

"It appears that his heart gave out. I will summon the undertaker to prepare him for burial."

"In the family crypt, Doctor."

"Yes, of course."

He left the room and we stood still for a moment, before I launched myself at Walter. His arms wrapped around me and we clung to each other.

"Lord, might I suggest that I take Walter back to your residence? Before the Elders arrive."

"Yes, that's a good idea. Then come back for me."

"Yes, Lord."

"We will talk when I get home later." I reassured Walter.

He gave me one final squeeze and then hurried from the room with the Captain. The meeting with the Elders went better than I expected. My uncle was not loved, so they saw no reason to doubt his own physician's word. They did not even ask about Walter.

Once my uncle's body was taken away to be prepared, I hurried back home. Walter was soaking in the pool when I entered. I undressed hurriedly and slid into the water with him.

"Relax, Walter. Let the water sooth you. I will watch over you this night."

He leaned back against me and soon he was sleeping. I quietly ordered the servants to bring more hot water when it started to cool. I waited until we were quite wrinkled before waking him enough for us to move to the bed. I didn't sleep that night; I just held on to him and waited for the new day to dawn.


I woke the next morning with Alexei wrapped firmly around me. He had dark smudges under his eyes, which told me he had not slept much. I slipped from his arms to relieve myself and when I came back he was still lying as I had left him. I decided he needed rest so I went in search of sustenance.

I was finishing my meal when the Captain came into the room.

"Walter, how are you this morning?"

"Still sore. Sir Charles was not a considerate man, to put it mildly. Sleeping on the floor like a dog after sleeping in Alexei's bed was not good for my aging body."

"I can imagine. Is milord still sleeping?"

"Yes. I don't think he got much sleep last night."

"The Elders will probably arrive soon to talk to him about the arrangements. It might be best if they do not see you."

"I agree, Walter."

I turned to see Alexei making his way toward us. He stopped next to me and bent to place a soft kiss on my head.

"You should be sleeping, Alexei. You look so tired."

He moved to take a seat before he answered.

"I am, but I need to take care of things. I would scold you for letting me sleep but I understand your reasons. Would you get me some breakfast?"

I got up quickly, putting far more on the plate than he was likely to eat. He had started talking to the Captain and I listened quietly.

"Have any messages arrived this morning?"

"Only one saying that the Elders will attend you at the noon meal."

"No doubt so that they may enjoy the King's table. Did you instruct the cooks?"

"Yes, Lord. They had anticipated the need for additional supplies. The word of your uncle's death spread quickly."

I placed the overflowing plate in front of him and he grinned up at me.

"Walter, I am in mourning, I can not possibly eat this much."

"You have lost some flesh in the last weeks. Eat as much as you can."

"We must discuss this authoritarian tendency you are developing."

I caught the Captain trying to stifle his chuckle as he watched us. I squeezed Alexei's shoulder then sat down next to him.

"You may beat me later if you feel the need."

At that, the Captain gave up and guffawed. Alexei snickered as well. Then he took a bite of his meal before resuming his conversation.

"Captain, you will of course inspect the crypt personally to be sure that all is in perfect order for my uncle's interment."

"Yes, Lord. You can count on me to make sure everything is as it should be."

"Good, thank you. Give us some privacy, would you, Captain."

The Captain bowed and left the room. Alexei's hand reached out to me and I held it.

"Walter, I will need to be away for a good portion of the day tomorrow. I'll have the Captain stay with you, although I do not believe they will even question where you are now that he is gone. His funeral will be held early, but then the Elders will expect me to put on a show of mourning at the church."

"I understand, Alexei. I will spend the time painting, I have a project in mind."

We sat silently, as he ate one-handed, neither of us wanting to break the connection. After he ate, we bathed and I oiled his body, taking time to bring him to climax. He reached for me but I pushed him gently away.


"I need some time, Alexei. Please understand."

"I am sorry. I should have thought of that, I remember how I felt after…"

"I will be fine, Alexei. He will not ruin what we have, I swear it."

I gave him a warm hug, then dressed him quickly, it was getting close to noon and I wanted the Elders to have no excuse to invade the private areas of his home. After a quick kiss, he left to await them in the drawing room. I gave myself permission to go back to bed; I had not slept much in the last two weeks.

When I woke later, Alexei was sleeping next to me, not touching but close. I moved toward him and rested my hand on his hip. He sighed, migrated toward my body and wrapped an arm around me. Again I slept; neither of us woke until near dawn.

In the early hours of the day, he asked me to love him and I did. Slowly, carefully, and we made it last a long time. When we calmed afterward, he pressed a sweet kiss to my lips.

"Thank you, Walter. Now the day will be easier to endure."

I again helped him bathe and dress, then sent him out with a single kiss. I spent my day in front of a canvas, trying to avoid thinking of what he was living through.


The ceremony surrounding my uncle's burial was lavish. Had I felt anything other than loathing for him, I might have considered it a just tribute. But as it was I found it to be a bit too much. The Elders had sent word to his remaining brother that he must come and take over the title.

I had never met my uncle Jeffery. As the youngest of the family, he had left home to make his way before I was born. I was sure the ascent to the family title and lands would not be unwelcome. In any case, there was no way for him to arrive before the services.

In the afternoon, alone in the church I knelt, but my thoughts were not of my uncle, or even of guilt for my part in his fate. My thoughts were of the man waiting for me at my home, the man who would end my public life, while giving me a private life far away.

I had seen the new marks on his body; I did not need to be told how they got there or who had inflicted them. I prayed that he would forgive me for my part in it all. Although, he seemed to feel affection for me still, our words of love from a fortnight before had not been repeated.

So, sacrilegious as it may have been, I prayed only for myself. Late in the day, when I returned home, he was waiting for me, dinner and wine ready, and his strong hands to sooth me into sleep.

During the next few weeks, we kept to the house mostly. I showed myself in public when I had to, but I claimed grief as a reason to avoid most outings. I did not think the Elders believed me but they did not make a hubbub.

Walter still pulled away from me when I tried to make love to him. He would love me when I asked and his hands brought me release often, but I was sorrowful, afraid that he might never want that again, but I was determined to give him all the time he needed.

I had been selfish enough; first forcing him to share my bed, turning him from all he had believed himself to be, and finally, delivering him to my uncle.

My year was winding down, and we had received word that my Uncle Jeffery would arrive within a week. One night, after we bathed he pulled me toward our bed. Holding me close, he whispered his plans.

"Alexei, I think it is best that you die before your uncle arrives. Best all around that we be gone by then."

"Yes, I agree. They will require me to be laid out for viewing."

"Do not worry, they will see no sign of life. Believe in me, Alexei."

I looked into his eyes and nodded. He kissed me, then murmured, "Make love to me."

I pulled back to look into his eyes once more, seeing only love. I almost whimpered with my desire for him. I rose swiftly to get the oil and when I turned back he was lying with his hips propped on the pillows. I prepped myself quickly but when I knelt between his legs I froze.


His eyes focused on mine, reading the fear I suddenly could not suppress, "Ah, 'Lexi, I want this but not for the reason you may think. I know you fear this may not work and your life will soon be over. It will work; you will be free to grow old with me. I am the one who should fear. There are much prettier men who will want you and try to take you from me."


"I intend to hold you to that. Now, take me, make us both fly."

I bent low to kiss him, a wet sloppy, mouth-claiming kiss. His legs wrapped around me, pulling me closer. I felt his hand reaching between us, finding my cock and guiding it to his opening. Once it was positioned, his legs tightened more, his hips lifting; I pushed forward to slide inside him.

He gasped into my mouth; I pulled back thinking I had hurt him.

"No, don't leave me!"

The need in his voice brought a smile to my lips. So I rocked, slowly taking pleasure from his tight body and his words that spiraled around us. He was covered with a sheen of sweat as he arched up to meet my every thrust. His words lost any meaning as he neared his climax.

Gripping him firmly, I stroked, holding still deep inside him, he jerked in my hand painting me with his seed.

"'Lexi – God!"

His sphincter convulsing around me sent me falling over the edge after him. I dropped to lie on his chest as his legs slipped from around me. His hands soothed me as we panted for several long minutes.

Later I rose from the bed to order tea. When the tea was brought, I sent the servants away, and watched as he measured the herbs into my cup, adding more honey than I normally put in my tea. I smiled at him as I took the cup, drinking it down quickly before I could have second thoughts or make him think I doubted him.

He rinsed the cup when I finished, throwing the contents off the balcony. Taking my hand, he led me to the bed, holding me close. When the pain started and I had to fight for my breath, he spoke piercingly to me.

"Alexei, look at me! I am here. I love you. I will bring you out the other side. Do not fear."

Fighting down my panic, I gripped him with both hands, as the world started to go gray. He kissed my lips.

"Sleep, my love. I will be here when you wake."


When Alexei lay dead I moved quickly to take care of the other portions of my plan. The remaining herbs I mixed into my paints and I used them to finish the portrait I had been painting of him. Then I cleaned my brushes and lay down next to him to await the morning.

I pretended sleep when the servants entered the room the next morning. When the scream of the servant broke the air, I scrambled from the bed.

"The King is dead!"

Faking horror at having been sleeping next to a corpse, "My god! He cannot be dead. He was fine last night."

The shouting brought the Captain into the room. He turned to one of the guards with instructions to call a physician, the same one who had examined Sir Charles. Coming over to me he took my arm and pulled me across the room.

"Walter, stay here, out of the way. I will take care of this."

I nodded with wide eyes, hoping I looked as scared as I should after finding myself in bed with a dead man. I sat as though dazed as the room filled with people. I was ignored for the most part, only one Elder wandered over to look at me. I turned to him with the blankest expression I could manage and he left me alone after his questions failed to get a response.

"Captain, the consort seems to be addled."

"He woke to shouts that the King was dead, I think, despite everything, he has come to feel affection for the King. It would be a shock to anyone to wake next to the dead."

"I suppose you are right. I must question the physician."

I listened to the conversation as I allowed a bit of drool to run from the corner of my mouth. Might as well carry the act all the way. I was not too surprised at the physician's statement.

"Physician, how did our King die?"

"He appears to have died as Sir Charles did. His heart gave out."

"Are you sure? There is no sign of poison?"

"None. Nor any marks of violence on his body. Our King died in his sleep and that poor idiot over there did not even know when it happened."

"Very well. We must prepare him for burial. I will send someone…"

"Milord, I would like to tend to the King myself. He has been kind to me this last year and I would be honored to prepare him for his journey."

"Very well, Captain. Have him ready for viewing by noon. I will have a grave dug for him."

"Surely, milord he will be placed to rest in the family crypt?"

"Do you think that is where he should be?"

"Yes, milord."

I was almost foaming at the mouth by this point. The Captain was betraying us. Once the crypt was opened they would find Sir Charles out of his coffin and dead on the floor and the bell cord cut. I itched to get my hands on him.

As soon as the room cleared of all but the Captain and myself I charged him. Catching him off guard, my fist connected and he hit the floor.

"Walter, what is wrong with you?"

"The crypt – you know what they will find in the crypt." I stood over him breathing fire and he had the good sense to stay where he was.

"It will be easier to awaken him and leave from there. They will find nothing amiss, Walter."

"The bastard must have come around weeks ago. He would have tried the cord and then he would have yelled to be freed."

"Yes, he did yell, and scream and finally he begged."


"Walter, I went to the crypt every night. Each night I called out until he answered. At first he expected to be rescued. He was quite angry when I laughed at him."

"You – I don't understand."

Alexei had failed to tell me why he trusted the Captain, so I was genuinely at a loss.

"He raped my sister, she died trying to birth his son, he then killed his own son. You and Alexei have helped me get my revenge."

"So you taunted him?"

"Yes, every night until he died. They will find nothing wrong in the crypt. I even put in a new bell pull."

I stood staring at the man who even then blazed with hatred. Reaching out, I offered him my hand. As I pulled him up I spoke from my heart.

"Thank you, for telling me. I knew it would be an unpleasant death, but I too wanted more. Captain, may I know your name?"

"I do not like my name, but with you I will share it. My mother named me Fox for the one she saw through the window as she labored with me. She felt he was there to witness my birth."

"Fox, thank you again. I am sorry I hit you."

"I understand. Now we must get milord laid out for viewing."

"Yes, since there are the two of us we can use the pool, it will be faster."

We cleaned Alexei and dressed him in the finest clothing available. By noon he was displayed in the drawing room. That was one of the longest days of my life. I watched with a vacant look on my face as a line of people filed past him. Many reached to caress his face or hand. I even saw a few tears.

I was relieved when the house was closed for the evening. The Captain and I talked for several hours, making plans for after Alexei was laid to rest.

The next day was cloudy, the type that would bring rain before the afternoon. No one questioned my walking next to the Captain behind the King's bier. I suppose they did not expect me to be capable of coherent speech.

When they started to enter the tomb with him I screamed, threw myself after him, clutching his body. The Captain and several other men pulled me off. I sat on the ground wailing as his body was placed inside and the doorway closed. I allowed the Captain to lead me away.

After the ordeal of the last days, I was so very tired that Fox and I decided I should sleep. My lover would be safe where he was for long enough for me to rest. Once we were on the road, we would travel as far as the horses could manage the first day.

I slept almost around the clock. Refreshed, I was ready to wake Alexei. I packed the few things I wanted to take with me, my canvasses rolled and placed in protective coverings. The one piece of jewelry that Alexei's mother had never parted with was tucked in with the clothing the Captain had brought for him.

At midnight the Captain came for me with the horses. I loaded the items I was carrying with the extra foodstuffs he had packed for us. He had even wrapped the horse's hooves so we would make less noise. At the cemetery, he opened the door as I hurried to prepare the antidote.

The moon had risen, light streaming in the door as we lifted his body from the coffin. Fox held him upright for me to let the mixture trickle into his mouth slowly. When the last had made its way into him, we let his body rest back as I went to get the clothing.

By the time he started to respond we had him dressed for the journey.


I awoke to the low sounds of voices. It took a moment for them to make any sense. Then I felt hands touching me, big hands, Walter's hands.

"Alexei, can you hear me? You need to wake so we can ride."

"It worked."

My throat was so dry it was little more than a croak. Walter's chuckle was joined by the Captain's soft laugh. Then I was lifted and a cup of water was being held to my lips. I sipped, grateful for the moisture.

"Walter, it really worked."

"Yes, 'Lexi, I would not have done it if I was not sure. We should get you up. It will take a little time for you to feel yourself again."

They moved to either side of me and lifted me to my feet. I sagged between them, as they tried to walk me toward the door. It took several minutes before I felt competent to walk on my own. They watched as I walked several steps away and then turned to walk back.

"Are you ready to ride, Alexei?"

"Yes, we should not linger."

I watched as Walter turned to the Captain, holding out his hand. The Captain pushed it aside and wrapped Walter up in a hug. A flash of jealousy stabbed through me until they stepped back. Walter's eyes were instantly on me as he smiled.

"Go you two, I will set things to rights here. I wish you long life and much happiness."

"Fox, if you ever change your mind, you will have a place with us."

"We shall see if Sir Jeffery is a better man than his brother. If not, I may show up there one day."

"I have an unmarried brother and a sister. Mayhap one of them might be to your liking."

My mouth dropped open at that. Obviously, I still had things to learn about my lover. The Captain laughed before he answered.

"Is he bald as well?"

"No, John has lots of hair, but he would shave it for one such as you."

They shared another laugh as I looked from one to the other wondering when they had become such friends. Walter moved closer to me, kissing me hastily, then offered a leg up. When I was seated, he mounted his horse quickly. A wave of his hand to the Captain and we were on our way.

We were a goodly distance from the village with the sun coming up before Walter called a halt. He led me deep into the woods, finding a stream before we made camp. You would think after being dead I wouldn't be ready to sleep again, but I was out as soon as he rolled us into a blanket.

I woke late afternoon to the smell of meat cooking. Walter was evidently a good hunter; two rabbits were roasting on a spit over the fire. I wandered off to relieve myself, and came back to find him stirring greens in a small pot. So hunter and gatherer, my lover was certainly a many talented man.

"How far have we come do you think?"

"We've made a decent start but I still want us to travel under darkness for at least two more days. Less chance of meeting anyone who knows who you are."

"I trust your judgement. Is the meal almost ready? Being dead makes you hungry."

"Yes, it is. Why don't you get the bottle of wine from the stream?"

I went in the direction he indicated and found the bottle wedged between two stones. Walking back to him, I admired the play of his muscles as he began to take apart the first rabbit. I accepted the plate from him and sat to eat. It was only when I realized he was watching me that I slowed down.

After we ate and cleaned up he pulled me back to the blanket.

"Walter, shouldn't we be getting ready to ride?"

"In a little while. Right now, I want to make love to you."

I suddenly thought that was an excellent idea. He undressed me slowly, kissing and biting each part of me as he uncovered it. By the time he moved to enter me, I was a quivering mass of sensations. I had enjoyed sex before Walter came into my life but no one had ever played my body as he did.

My climax was so intense; I shivered in his arms for long minutes afterward. Finally, I kissed the end of his nose and spoke.

"Being dead sure has its rewards."

"Well, I'll just have to make sure you keep receiving all the benefits you are entitled to. We need to get moving."

"Give me a minute longer so my legs will work."

He smiled, rose from our blanket and began to dress. I watched until he came back to me and swatted my thigh.

"Up, Lord, we have miles to cover."

I laughed with the sheer joy of being free, then scrambled up to get dressed. Our trip back to his county was long, sometimes difficult, but never boring. Now that we were free, we grew even closer. The walls we had kept up tumbled down. By the time we reached his home, I knew we would spend the rest of our lives together.


I had not told Alexei of my deception regarding his aunt and cousin. To be honest, I was sure he would be ecstatic that they lived but angry with me for not telling him. So once we reached my homeland, I took him directly to the small cottage they had been given.

I could see the puzzlement on his face. By that point I had talked of my home enough for him to expect something grander. He opened his mouth to speak just as the door swung open and his teenage cousin Kimberly burst from the cottage.

He nearly fell from his horse, and she was jumping to throw herself into his arms. He twirled around swinging her out from his body as she giggled. I smiled at his aunt standing in the doorway waiting for them to finish their reunion.

Finally, he set her on her feet and turned to his aunt. I watched as he wrapped his arms around her carefully. When he pulled back both of them brushed at their eyes. Then he turned and glared at me.

"You bastard!"


"It's all right, Rose. He has every reason to be angry with me. I let him believe all these months that you were dead. I just could not risk telling you differently. Your grief needed to be believed."

"And why did you not tell me on the journey here?"

"I thought the trip would be long enough without your thinking of seeing them at the end."

"So, I am a child who needs protecting! Not a man to share your life!"

I slipped down from my horse and moved toward him. "Alexei, you are most definitely a man, the only man with whom I wish to share my life."

His hands were balled into fists so I stopped a few feet from him. If he wanted to hit me he would need to cross the space to do so. I would not bring it on by moving too close to him. His eyes blazed with a fire that had never been directed at me. My heart sank as he turned on his heel and entered the cottage.

I stood frozen to the spot until Rose placed a hand on my arm.

"Go see your family, Walter. Give him a little time to cool. I will help him understand that you sought only the safest way for us all."

"When he will listen, tell him I love him."

"He knows that. I saw the knowledge in his eyes when he brought you to meet us. His temper is hot now. He will get past it. He loves you too much to be long without you."

I bent and kissed her cheek before mounting my horse and riding toward my home. My sister greeted me in much the same way as Kimberly had Alexei. Olivia had indeed become a woman in the time I had been away. I put her back on her feet as John pounded on my back to get my attention.

"'Bout time you made it home, brother. One of the workers sent word that you were on your way in. Where is Alexei?"

"He is with his Aunt Rose. He is very angry with me."

"I wanted to meet him. Why is he angry?"

"Because I kept it from him that I had sent them here."

"Ah, brother, when will you learn?"

I was spared the need to answer that question by my mother's arrival on the scene.

"Walter, it is good to have you home."

I heard the relief in her voice as she hugged me. She did not ask about Alexei, which made me think that she had heard us talking. I looked at John over her shoulder to confirm that he had told her I would be bringing someone home. He nodded but I decided to get him alone as soon as possible to discuss what he had told her. I had no intention to hide him, but still did not wish to hurt my mother overly much.

"Come inside, you must be hungry."

"Mother, I am fine, no need to fuss."

"Walter, you have been away for over a year, allow me to spoil you a little."

She took one arm and my sister took the other. I allowed them to pull me inside and straight to the kitchen. John called out that he would see to my horse. I was seated at the table with a big glass of milk and an enormous slice of pie when he came in.

"I found these with your clothes, thought you might want to get them unrolled, maybe ready for framing."

"The countryside was beautiful there. I did a summer view and an autumn one."

"There are three canvases here, Walter."

"The third is a portrait of Alexei."

"This I must see."

John started to unroll the first, saw enough to know it was a landscape, and went to the next one. He unrolled the next one to stare at Alexei in all his finery as King. When John did not move or turn the canvas, Olivia moved around the table to look.

"Walter, he is beautiful." The awe in her voice told me I had done a decent job.

"It does not do him justice. I am not talented enough for that."

I watched as my mother joined them; her face shifted through emotions too quickly for me to catch them all. Finally, she looked at me.

"He is a fine looking man, Walter. Are you sure this is what you want?"

"Yes, Mother, I am very sure."

"It will not be easy, but then, you never ran from a challenge."

The relief that flooded me could never be described. I had come home ready to stay a short while, then move on with him if that is what it came to. But in just a few words my family had let me know that Alexei would be welcomed. All that was left was to get him past his anger.

A fortnight later, he still had not contacted me. I had sent messages, invitations to dinner, baskets filled with his favorite fruits, to no avail. I had not gone personally for fear we would come to blows. I do have a temper as well, and had learned long ago to stay away from those I love if there was a chance of its taking control.

I did however, start work on a cottage for us, midway between the main house and the cottage his aunt was living in. I refused to believe that it might never be needed.

I was growing depressed over the situation when my brother took it upon himself to take action.


I had been in the cottage with my aunt and cousin for two weeks, weeks in which they had tried to cajole me out of my anger with Walter. I heard the reasons, even understood them, but I was furious that he had decided to take on the role of protector for me and mine. That he had judged me to be so incompetent that I would give away the ruse.

I was out working in the small garden when his brother John came to see me. I heard the horse, stood to work the kinks from my back as I watched him approach. I would not have picked him out as Walter's brother. Later, I would learn that John took after the maternal side of the family; Walter was the image of his father.

"Hello, Alexei. I am John, Walter's brother."

"Did he send you, since the charity baskets did not work?"

"You do not know my brother as well as you think if you believe that. No, he did not send me; I came on my own. I got tired of waiting for you to forgive him."

"That is between us. If he wants forgiveness he should be asking."

"I agree. But you see he does not feel what he did was wrong. And between us, he is a most stubborn man."

I bit my lip to stop the grin that tried to escape. Yes, my Walter is quite stubborn on a lot of things.

"So, what would you have me do? Throw myself at his feet? Pretend what he did does not hurt me? I do not wish to spend the rest of my life giving in to him. I may be as pretty as some women, but I am not one."

"I would never accuse you of being womanly. I will offer you this counsel: if you wish to get your way with my brother, approach him head on with your facts in order. He may be stubborn, but he is also logical and will see the merits of a well thought out argument."

"Any thoughts on how I go to him without bending knee?"

"He is working on a cottage for the two of you. It is a nice day for a ride especially in a northeasterly direction."

"You know that poor horse would probably appreciate a good workout. I think I shall take a ride this fine day."

"Alexei, I shall make a prediction – you will have my bear of a brother wrapped around your finger and back in your bed before the day is over."

"John, I will make one as well – you and I are going to be great friends."

"Well, you see that is one thing I never doubted. Anyone, who can inspire my brother to paint, as you did, had an inside track to my life. I need to head for home. You will come for dinner?"

"Yes, I will be there."

"A confident man is most appealing. Good day, Alexei."

I waved as he rode away, then hurried to get cleaned up and dressed for riding. I used the small amount of gillyflower-scented oil I had left to make me smell, as he likes. I had noticed the plants beginning to grow around the cottage and when I asked, Aunt Rose had told me he insisted she bring seeds with her. She also told me some had been added to his mother's garden as well. I had no doubt that they would be planted around the cottage he was building for us.

I packed a lunch, added a blanket then set out to find him. I took the direction John had indicated and after a while all I needed to do was follow the sounds of labor. I entered the small clearing in which he was building our cottage, and sat my horse quietly, waiting for him to pause in his work.

It was noon, the sun high, day getting warm. He was stripped to his waist. His muscles were gleaming with sweat, my cock rose in appreciation of all that delectable male flesh. It had been a fortnight since we had touched each other. I craved him, as I never thought I would crave anything.

My horse whickered and he turned at the sound. Our eyes met and he walked slowly toward me. I don't even remember sliding down from my horse. I barely remember jumping to wrap myself around him. Then his tongue was down my throat and I was riding him.

His hands squeezed my ass painfully; when I grunted he loosened them only slightly. Yanking my head back from his I hissed out.

"You are still not forgiven!"

"I understand."

Then his mouth was on mine again. We did not come up for air until the horse nudged against us. Laughing into my mouth, he slowly pulled back and lowered me to the ground. Without a word exchanged I took the blanket and lunch. He set the horse free to graze.

I had the blanket spread out under a shady tree when he came up behind me and wrapped his arms around me. His lips nuzzled my ear before he whispered.

"Can we have the make-up sex first and the conversation later?"

"Do not think you are getting out of a conversation by making me fly over the moon."

"The last fortnight has made me aware of your temper. I will never take that lightly."

"In that case you have permission to see just how hard you can make me climax."

I do not remember much of how he got me naked. His mouth was so hot, wet and greedy that for moments it was all I knew. When he moved over me and began making his way down my body I arched up to him. Reaching behind me, I grasped at the tree trunk wanting to give him free rein. Later, I would pick splinters from under my nails.

I do not believe he left any part of me unkissed. By the time he covered my cock with his mouth, I was speaking in something approaching tongues. I gasped as my legs were raised and he entered me. His climax was over far too soon, leaving me feeling bereft, until he immediately straddled me and impaled himself on me.

"Please…oh god…Walter…no not yet!"

But it was too late to make it last longer. He was bucking up and down on me so hard and fast, my cock could not contain the seed. What my mind wanted and what my body needed did not mesh at that moment.

His chuckle floated over me as my scream of completion ended. I reached out and tweaked his nipple hard enough to make him curse.

Pulling off me, he rolled to lie next to me panting loudly. After a time, I turned to find him staring at me.

"I am sorry, Alexei. My family tells me I do things with the right motive but without enough facts. I sought only to bring you all safely from that land, to give you a chance at a real life."

"I know that, Walter. What you must learn is that I am no child to be coddled. I am a man who can do what is needed."

"I can not promise to get it right every time. But I will learn if you will forgive me."

I rolled onto my side to press a kiss to his lips. Then sitting up, I reached for the basket.

"We should eat. Then we can work on *our* cottage together."

His smile was brighter than the sun.

Over the next few weeks we worked side by side to build our home. We made love on a blanket under the trees every afternoon. At night we went our separate ways, since neither of us felt we could abstain, nor were we willing to inflict our love life on our families.

When the day arrived that the house was finished and our bed was installed, we celebrated by making that new bed sing. By the time we came up for air we were both raw.

On the Saturday after the house was finished, the families descended on us to bring food and other items to make our house more a home. Many of the workers and neighbors came as well, and soon we had a party going. Loins of meat were roasting on a spit over a hastily dug pit; the women were making the side dishes that could not be prepared beforehand.

A band played so that anyone not involved in getting dinner ready could dance. Walter and I were dancing to a lively song when the music trailed off. Turning to follow the stares of the musicians, we watched as Fox slowly raised a hand in salute before falling from his horse.

John beat us to him by just a few seconds. Walter's worried voice caused John to look up at him.


"You know him, Walter?"

"Yes, this is the man who helped us escape."

"Walter, I'll turn down the bed, you and John get him inside."

I ran to the house, not waiting to see if they followed my orders. I had the bed ready when they came through the door with him. He moaned as they placed him on the bed, then seemed to sink into a stupor.

"John, please tell everyone to continue. No need to stop the party and we still need to eat. Walter and I will see to our guest."

"Alexei, Mother has some knowledge of doctoring, should I send her in?"

"Let us get him undressed and cleaned up a little. It may just be exhaustion. Have someone tend his horse, will you?"


I watched as my brother left the room to see to our guests. Alexei and I worked together to get Fox undressed. His clothing was stuck to his back, and we turned him to find dried blood in strips across it. Our eyes met above him and we knew he had been whipped.

"I'll get some warm water, Lexi."

"And the herbs to ease the pain."

By the time I got back, Alexei had him naked, except for the dried-on shirt. A sheet was pulled up to his waist. I set the basin down, handing a still fairly wet cloth to Alexei, I took the other and we covered his back.

"I guess my Uncle Jeffery isn't any better than his brother."

I was already mixing the herbs into a salve for his back. I had no words to answer that. We would need to hear what Fox had to say before we knew the truth. Alexei lifted the edge of one of the cloths and checked to see if the blood had softened enough to get his back bare. Dropping it back down, he turned to look at me.

"I asked Mother to make some broth. I don't think we should try to give him anything else when he comes to. John said his horse was in pretty bad shape. He has one of the boys cooling him down and then he will feed and water him."

"I wonder how he found us?"

"I gave him directions before we left but they would have led him to the main house. Of course there would still be folks around there finishing up chores before they head over here for dinner."

We sat beside him and waited for the warm water to do its work. When next Alexei rose to check, the cloth came up easily. Getting the wet shirt off him, we tended his back. A few of the marks had started to heal but the deeper ones were infected. My Mother entered the room just as we got the last of the wounds covered.

"Walter, I have the broth ready. Has he wakened?"

"No, Mother. I think he might not for some time. It looks as if he traveled hard and rested little to get here."

"Who is he, Walter?"

I saw that John and Olivia had entered and were waiting.

"This is Fox, the Captain of the guards who helped me get Alexei free."

John moved closer, "Walter, do you think he was followed? Should I set a watch?"

"I think he would have gone somewhere else if he thought he was being followed, but set watch just in case. And, John, see that they know to report only, I won't have anyone hurt if it can be stopped."

John nodded and hurried from the house. I soon heard horses going off in the direction from which pursuit, if any, would come. My Mother moved past me to lean over and press her cheek to Fox's forehead.

"He is a little warm, Walter."

"Yes, several of the wounds are infected."

"Olivia, go to the house and get my medicine kit."

Olivia hurried off to do as she was told. Then Mother turned to me.

"You two, go outside. You have guests and this is your day. I will see to him."


"Do not argue with me, Alexei. He is not going anywhere and if he wakes, I will come for you."

"No use to argue, Lexi. She will just swat you with a spoon."

I smiled, as my lover gave my Mother a strange look. Taking his hand, I pulled him out into the sunshine. Raising my hand for silence I told everyone what was going on so that no strange stories would be circulated.

"I know you are wondering about the visitor. He is from Alexei's homeland. He helped us survive and then leave the country. Until he wakes, we will not know why he came here or how he was injured. So, since my Mother has things with him well in hand, and we have a watch set for strangers, let us get on with the party."

We moved among our guests, and after some little time Alexei relaxed. I was able to coax him back out to dance. When the sun was nigh setting, we all gathered to eat. The first to finish dinner went out to relieve the watchers so they could come and eat. I saw Mother across the yard sitting with her plate and went into the cottage to check on Fox.

John was sitting next to the bed, slowly wiping a damp cloth over Fox's sweaty face.

"John, has he stirred?"

"No. Mother thinks he probably will not before tomorrow."

"Want me to sit with him, so you can go and dance a jig?"

"No. I have not been here long. I can look after him."

"Then I will get back to the guests."

"He is quite striking, Walter. Are all the men from Alexei's homeland so?"

"No, not all. Fox and Alexei are the cream of the crop. He is a good man as well as handsome."

"I will come for you if he wakes."

"Thank you, John."

It was late before the party wound down. Alexei had gone in earlier to offer to sit with Fox but Olivia had taken over from John. Finally, only immediate family was left, so we all gathered in the parlor.

"Walter, his fever is down. I checked his back and the salve is starting to work, a good deal of the redness is fading. I think he will wake tomorrow."

"Good, we are anxious to know what happened with him."

"I guess we should head for home. John, you should stay here with your bother in case extra hands are needed."

"Mother, I think John should be with you tonight."

"Nonsense. If anyone comes we will have warning. I will come over in the morning to check on him."

Rose spoke then. "Walter, if you are concerned, then Olivia and Sharon could stay with Kimberly and me tonight."

I turned to my mother then; "Please do that, Mother. If pursuit comes it would reach your house first."

"You are a bigger worrywart than your father was. All right, we shall stay the night with Rose. Now you boys try and get some sleep."

"Yes, Mother."

John and I chorused in the singsong of childhood. He was closer so he got the swat.


When they were gone, we made a pallet on the floor of the parlor. We would divide up the night, each of us watching over Fox for a time. Alexei took the first watch. When he came to wake me I was hugging John, who had slept through it.

"Should I be jealous, Walter?"

"No!" I hissed as quietly as I could. "You know you are the only man I have ever wanted that way. It was just habit."

"Maybe I should take this watch since I'm awake now. No need to worry, Alexei. Walter always did need something to hold on to. He had a favorite blanket as a child. Guess you gave him a different type of security blanket."

"Brother, you are not long for this world if you do not stop telling my secrets."

John scrambled up and headed for the bedroom door.

"Have to catch me first."

Alexei chuckled and lay down next to me.

"Think we can sneak in a quiet session?"

"Not with Mr. Big Mouth in the next room."

Alexei gave me a deep kiss and we rolled together and went back to sleep. I woke with the sun in my eyes, a stiff back and wondered why I was on the floor. Then I remembered. I pulled carefully away from Alexei and went to the door of our bedroom.

John was sitting in the bed with his arms wrapped around a sleeping Fox. John's eyes opened when I touched his shoulder.

"He had a nightmare. I could not get him to calm until I held him."

Fox's eyes opened and he rasped, "Walter, is it really you this time?"

"It is really me. I will bring you something to drink."

Fox raised his head to look at John, "Who are you?"

"Fox, this is my brother, the one I told you about."

"John, right?"


"John, why are you holding me?"

I chuckled and went off, leaving John to answer him. Alexei was stirring on our pallet on the floor.

"Alexei, he is awake. I am going to get water for him."

"He will have to wait to see me until after I take care of nature."

"Probably best. Give John a chance to finish explaining to Fox why he woke up in John's lap."

"I am not going to ask."

"Again, probably a good idea."

As I stepped outside to get fresh water from the well, one of the hands jumped to his feet.

"Aaron, why are you here?"

"Your mother thought someone should be here first thing in case you needed her."

"I see. Well, go and get them. Tell them he is awake, and we will get some breakfast into him and wait to hear his tale until they are here."

He hurried off to do as bid.


After I emptied my bladder, I headed back to see what was going on. John was coming from our bedroom, his face a little flushed. I smiled as I remembered what Walter had said about Fox being in John's lap. Walter came through the doorway with a bucket of water from the well before I had a chance to comment.

"All done explaining?"

"Yes, he would like something to eat, says he can not remember the last time he ate."

"You and Alexei can start breakfast, I'll see he has water. Aaron was outside so I sent him to fetch the women. I told him to tell them we would not ask for his story until they arrive."

John and I went to start the cooking and before long Walter was helping Fox walk out to the kitchen. Walter had wrapped him in his robe and Fox was swimming in the extra material. But his clothing was a lost cause. We gave him tea to sip until everything was ready.

Just as we started eating, the women arrived. Walter's mother went straight to Fox and checked for fever. He gave her a startled look as she pressed her cheek to his.

"Fox, this is my mother, Sharon. And that is my sister Olivia and I think you know Rose and Kimberly."

Fox's eyes widened as he looked at them.

"I thought they were dead."

"So did I. I was not pleased that Walter kept that part of his plot from me."


"Shush you two. That is all water under the bridge. Now eat so we may hear Fox's story."

We quieted down and concentrated on breakfast. I had learned early not to back-talk Sharon; I had felt the end of her broom on more than one occasion.

When we had finished breakfast, Fox requested a chance to bathe before telling his story. Even though we were all anxious to hear, we appreciated his need to get clean. He did have a rather strong odor. When John offered to help him, Fox agreed and Walter and I shared a sly grin.

So we cleaned the kitchen while we waited. The ladies made up new bandages and more salve for Fox's back. All things considered, it was almost lunchtime before he was settled in a chair in the parlor and ready to talk.

~~~~~~Fox's Tale~~~~~~


A few days after you left, Sir Jeffery arrived. He does not have Charles' bad habits but he does share a certain coldness with him. I did, however, think it might work out so I continued my duties.

Everything went well for some time and I became complacent. I even failed to worry when one of the Elders brought you up, Walter. Jeffery questioned where you had gone and the Elder looked to me.

I told him you had disappeared the night after Alexei had been interred and I feared that in your mental state you had been killed in the woods. When asked if we searched for you, I stated that I had not been ordered to search.

I should have left that night but he seemed to accept my story and the Elder offered no opinion on the subject. Things went on for some time with Jeffery slowly taking over all the businesses Charles had owned.

He allowed everyone to continue the jobs they were currently working and it seemed for a time that he would be a better man than his brother had been.

The day we were shopping in the bazaar and he pointed out a boy he wanted for his bed, I knew I could not continue. When I failed to bring the boy to him that night, he punished me. Not as severely as he could have, and I accepted it as a just price for giving the boy and his family a chance to flee.

It was a week later that he ordered a group of guards to prepare for a ride. I led them, as that was my place still. I was surprised when he rode toward the cemetery. He had been back for months and had not gone at any time to pay his respects.

I admit to a certain panic when he wanted the tomb opened. But I braved it out, not expecting him to do more than say a prayer beside the coffins. When he started to pry open his brother's coffin I began to worry.

I asked what he was doing, and he indicated that he wanted any jewels that had been buried with his brother. I considered lying but was afraid he would hear the truth from an Elder if he did not already know.

I was not too concerned about the fact that Charles had not actually died when it was thought he had. As I told you, I had put things to right after his actual death. So I stood silently as the body was stripped of the jewelry.

When he turned toward Alexei's coffin, I tried to stop him. I told him you had not been bedecked for burial. Since you had been in line for the Summer King sacrifice and were a bastard as well, no jewels had been given to you.

He insisted on opening the coffin and I braced myself to lie. I feigned shock when the lid was lifted and all that was found in the box were your ceremonial robes laid out neatly.

I do not believe I am as good at acting as you two are. Or maybe Jeffery is better at reading deception. I even offered your name as a possible culprit. But Jeffery had me thrown in the dungeon.

He gave me a week to ponder my fate before he questioned me again. This time with the help of the guard who whipped you, Walter. I stuck to my story, and they left me alone again. Another week passed before he had me dragged into the square and beaten. As they cut me down, the announcement that I would be executed with the dawn was read.

My cousin was assigned to bring me my last meal and he helped me to escape. He rode in one direction, I in another. I took a circuitous route to get here and covered my tracks as often as possible. I do not believe we have anything to fear, but I would still suggest that your people be vigilant for a time.

As soon as I heal I will move on if you like, although I would like to say here, as you offered, if you feel it is safe.


We had all kept still as he talked, until his last words. Walter exploded from his chair.

"I should have stayed long enough to kill him as well. Best for the line to die out and new blood to take over."

"Walter, do not be so blood thirsty. After all, Alexei is of the same bloodline."

"Mother, trust me, my Lexi is nothing like his uncles."

My heart soared with his words. The simple statement told me, more than any other that he harbored no ill will for how our relationship had started.

"Fox, Walter did not make the offer lightly. I have learned he is a man of his word. You will stay for as long as you wish."

The others joined in with similar statements. Fox nodded with a smile.

Sharon stood up then and checked him once more for fever.

"It is time Olivia and I got home, we have chores to do. Walter would you like me to have John bring over the cot that we use for extra guests?"

John spoke before Walter could respond. "Fox could stay with me. Walter and Alexei have lots of work to complete here at the cottage and I have a little time on my hands."

I watched Sharon's eagle eyes pierce her son as he flushed. Fox was doing a little blushing of his own. Walter abruptly turned on his heel and left the room, his shoulders shaking. I made a decision to find out exactly what Walter had seen in our bedroom that morning.

"Ladies, why don't you all head for home, we'll work out sleeping arrangements for Fox. I think once he has a few meals in him and the salve has a chance to work, he will recover quickly."

Walter walked out in time to follow his Mother out with instructions on who should be set to watch. All too quickly it was the four of us men left alone again and the silence descended.


We sat in silence until I could take it no longer. So I said something I knew would cause my brother to speak, if not try and hit me.

"So, John, are you considering the type of living arrangements your brother enjoys?"

"Walter, keep still."

"But, John, did you not say he was 'striking'?"

"Brother, tread carefully."

Fox was staring at us, his eyes moving from one to the other as his face flamed again.

"Walter, I do not wish to be a burden to you, or John. Just give me a blanket and I can sleep by the hearth until I am well. You and Alexei do not need to fuss over me."

"Fox, you will learn that this teasing is their standard form of conversation. Ignore them, that is what I do."

"I think Fox needs lunch. Alexei will you help me get the meal ready? I am sure that John can watch over Fox."

Alexei followed me out to the kitchen and we left John to dig his way out or farther into the hole I had started for him. As soon as we were away from them Alexei turned to me.

"Tell me, Walter."

"Tell you what?"

"What was going on when you checked on them this morning?"

"John says that Fox had a nightmare and would not calm until he held him. John was leaning against the wall with Fox between his legs and he was holding him tightly to his chest."

"Has John ever expressed interest in a man?"

"No, but then I never felt interest in one until I met you. Must be something about the men from your country. Or its those damn gillyflowers."

"Yes, it is a deep secret that the smell from the plants makes men do things they never thought they would. And it was so nice of you to have Aunt Rose bring them here so that I may keep you in thrall."

"Lexi, flowers or no you will never be free of me."

"That pleases me more than words can express."

I pulled him close for a long kiss, only pulling back when I heard John clear his throat.

"Yes, brother?"

"Fox asked if he may be allowed wine with his food."

"One glass only."

"I will tell him."


"Yes, Alexei?"

"I think you should plan on taking Fox to your cottage after we eat. Walter and I have things to take care of this afternoon."

"It has only been one night for heaven's sake."

"After Fox has cast his spell on you I will remind you of this conversation."

I watched John, as Alexei's words penetrated. The red cheeks were back and he turned to leave us without any other comments.

"I thought I was the only one allowed to tease my brother."

"But he is my brother as well now, is he not?"

I chuckled, then gave him another kiss and a swat on his ass. When we entered the parlor with a tray, John and Fox were sitting very close together on the settee. I refrained from comment, as did Alexei. We talked of what Fox could do to earn his way once he was well and John assured him that he could stay with him as long as he wanted.

We waved goodbye to them a short time later and went to reclaim our bed. Our coupling was frantic after only one night of abstinence; it made me wonder what we would be like after a longer period of denial.

John sent us daily updates on Fox's recovery. It was about a week before I saw him again. It is a vision that will never leave me.

It only took Fox a week to ensnare my younger brother.

I had gone to check up on Fox, partly because Alexei was working on his garden, and I had no real chores to occupy me at the time. It was a beautiful day, so I expected to find the two of them outside. When I saw no sign of them, I assumed that Fox might be napping and John had gone to visit Mother or take care of business.

So I entered the cottage quietly. I could hear the sounds almost as soon as I stepped through the door. A low moan followed by quiet words that I could not quite make out. At that point I should have slipped out as quietly as I had entered, but the urge to know was too great.

So moving as stealthily as if I were hunting, I made my way to the door of the bedroom. It was not closed completely, so I could get a good view without pushing it open.

There, in the center of his bed, knelt my brother. Fox was on his knees as well, his arms wrapped around John from behind. As I watched, Fox's hips flexed and he pushed up hard into John. My cock stirred at the sheer beauty of them together. I wondered if my face held such ecstasy when Alexei took me in that fashion.

The moan I had heard before rolled out again, to be followed by one word. "Please!"

"Whatever you need, John."

Then Fox bent his head and fastened onto the spot where neck and shoulder meet. As I watched, Fox's hands moved over John's chest, rubbing at his hard nipples. I reached down and adjusted my own erection. I knew it was wrong to continue watching, but I could not move.

Fox pulled back and my eyes dropped to see their connection. Another similarity to add to the others between Fox and Alexei. Long, thick, a perfect tool to drive a man wild. John whimpered and pushed back toward Fox.

Fox chuckled and slammed in all the way. I could hear the slap of flesh against flesh as his balls connected with John. He began to move in earnest then, his strokes going deep inside, as John's cries became more needy.

I caressed my cock through my clothing, wanting to reach completion. But somehow, I felt that would be a betrayal to Alexei, so I forced my hand away. Fox's movements had become jerky in a way that told me he was nearing climax.

Suddenly he bent his knees and surged upward so hard that John was lifted slightly from the bed. I watched as John screamed and his seed shot from his body. Fox cupped his head and turned him for a kiss. Fox's hips moved as if trying to force more of his body inside John.

When their kiss ended, Fox murmured something in John's ear that I could not make out, but it brought a smile to my brother's face. His eyes opened then and he looked right at me. All color left his face, as he gasped out my name. Fox turned his head, going a similar shade of white.

I, being the brave soul that I am, decided to leave before they had a chance to realize how much watching them had affected me. I ran out and mounted my horse, heading for home and the man who could scratch my itch.


I was washing up after working in the garden all morning when Walter rode into the yard. He jumped down, swatted the horse toward the pasture and ran toward me. I would have been alarmed if I had not seen that look in his face before. For some reason my man was in the mood and I never say no to that mood.

He grabbed for me as soon as he was within reaching distance, and I was thoroughly kissed, as he started walking us toward the house. The third time we stumbled, he came up for air and lifted me off my feet.

"Walter, what is going on?"

"Talk later. Bed now."

Caveman language indicated he was in no mood for waiting and meant a good, hard, fast ride. Good thing I was already partially undressed. I helped get him undressed as he pawed at me. His nails would leave marks down my back and chest.

He barely had the presence of mind to use oil before he entered me. By that point, I had learned to relax around him, so I didn't need a lot of lubrication, but I did need some. He had positioned us so that I was straddling his thighs, my hands helping with leverage by gripping his shoulders.

His hands roamed over me and we rocked furiously against each other. Finally, his hand wrapped around me and he pulled hard at my cock.

"Come, Lexi. Come now!"

I obliged him as he thrust up as hard as possible to deliver his seed into my body. I dropped my head to his shoulder and panted softly until my breathing was normal.

"Where the hell did that come from?"

"I walked in on John and Fox."

My mind was still a little befuddled by the climax I had just been given, so I did not get his point.

"What were they doing?"

"They were naked, in the middle of John's bed. Fox has seduced my brother."

I pulled back to look at him, not knowing if he was all right with the whole idea. I, myself, had known that they would get to that point eventually. I had just hoped that neither of them would be hurt by it.

"How do you feel about that? Aside from the fact that it obviously got you raring to go."

"They looked beautiful together. If it is my brother's destiny to love a man, then he has chosen the second best one to love."

"Second best?"

"I have the best and I do not intend to share."

Before we could continue the conversation, a shout rang out in the yard.

"Walter, Alexei, are you there?"

"I guess Fox has better manners than you do."

I scrambled off Walter's body, frowning at the flow of liquid down my legs. I went to the door and called out.

"Fox, I will be out in a minute, please wait there."

I turned back to see Walter up and wiping at his body with a cloth. Pointing at the bed, I ordered.

"Get back there and wait for me. I want a rematch."

He grinned and lay down to wait for me. I took the cloth he had used and wiped myself clean, then pulled on clothes. When I reached the yard, Fox was sitting on the bench underneath the walnut tree. He stood as I approached him with a hangdog expression on his face.

"Is Walter so angry at me he will not even face me?"

"Angry? Why would he be angry?"

"Angry at what he saw happening between John and me. He ran out so quickly that I was sure it was so he would not kill me. That is why I waited a little time to come over here."

"You did not force John, did you?"

"No! I would never force anyone. But John isn't completely sure this is what he wants."

"Do you not remember how my relationship with Walter started? You helped tie him down for me. I know it was you, none of the others would have protected his wrists."

"I remember. That is why I thought he might think I had forced John in some way."

"He is not angry. He told me that you are beautiful together."

"He did?"

I laughed at the surprised look on his face.

"Yes, he did. He also said that if his brother were destined to be with a man, then at least he would have the second best one."

"I guess I do not have to ask who is the best. But then why did he run off without a word?"

"Because he wanted to give me a demonstration of what you were doing."

I smiled at his blush. I slapped his back as I led him to his horse.

"I do not mean to be inhospitable, but Walter is waiting in our bed naked, and it is my turn. Also I am sure that John is worried about this visit, so go home to him. Bring him back for dinner."

"I am not sure I can call it home. He is very troubled about the whole thing. He may just be infatuated and will grow tired of me."

I became concerned at the sadness in his voice. "Fox, do you love him?"

"I have not known him long enough…"

"Nonsense! I have loved Walter from the moment I first saw him. Do you love him?"

"So much it hurts even to think of him throwing me out."

"Then, take my council, go slowly, be patient, allow him to see your heart. Do not push for more than he offers. If he is anything like his brother, soon he will be offering you all that you desire and more."

"Is that how it was with you and Walter?"

"Yes, the less I asked for, the more he gave."

"Thank you, Alexei. What time should we be here for dinner?"

"Give me at least until the sun is low. I will cook something special."

I watched as he mounted his horse and rode away. Letting out a whistle, I went to unsaddle Walter's stud and lead him into the corral. Then I headed back inside to find Walter curled on his side napping. I joined him on the bed and slipped into sleep. My turn could wait until later.

I woke much later to the feel of a tongue sweeping over my nipple. I pushed at him, getting him on his back. Kneeling over him, I smiled as the afternoon sun bathed his body in gold.

"You went to sleep before I came back."

"You tire me out when you attack me that way." His grin was way too smug.

"I seem to remember you being the one in charge."

"Ah, but you like me to be in charge sometimes."

"That I do. We must talk, Walter. I told Fox to bring John for dinner. I promised a special dinner so we do not have time to linger."

Walter pulled me down toward him and took a quick kiss before he let me talk.

"So what did Fox have to say."

"First of all he thought you left because you were angry."

"Angry? Why would I be angry? After all I am in a relationship with you. If John wants the same kind of relationship that is certainly his decision."

"Fox looks up to you, Walter. Do you not know that? You are a strong man who made the best of a bad situation and even managed to help him get his revenge. He would want your approval for that alone."

"He and John do not need my approval. It was obvious that my brother wanted what was happening. He was definitely making no move to get away."

"Fox has only been here a short time, but it is long enough to see how close your family is. I can tell you I would have been just as concerned as he is if I had come into your life and a week later was sharing your bed."

"May I remind you that it was not even hours after we met before we shared a bed?"

"But I had almost a year to get you to love me before I had to face your family."

His brow wrinkled as he thought about my words. I could see the wheels turning and I waited for the light to dawn.

"So you are telling me I can not be my usual teasing self with my brother this night?"

"No, I am telling you that you should let them both know they have your approval."

"You really believe this?"

"Yes, Walter. Fox is as hopelessly in love with John as I was with you."

"Was?" He frowned and his eyebrow climbed toward the top of his head.

I decided a physical demonstration was more appropriate than words. Walter seemed to get the point quite well. So well that the only thing special about dinner was that it was the first of many the four of us would eat together over the years.

When John and Fox arrived, Walter immediately tried to make them feel comfortable.

"Fox, I understand from Alexei that you thought I was angry today. That was not the case. Watching you was not something I would normally do, although after being watched all those months I don't feel as shy about it as I once did. But you just looked so good together. I left because I was aroused and needed to get home to Alexei."

"Brother, you accept this?"

"John, I have been sharing Alexei's bed for over a year. I am not likely to tell the two of you that you should not or cannot do what I do every day. I want what makes you happy."

Fox stepped toward Walter, holding out his hand. Walter pushed it aside and hugged him. I watched John, looked at his eyes, saw the slight narrowing of them as Walter hugged longer than he felt was right. This too, I had suggested to him as they were riding into the yard that night.

I pulled John toward the table and let Walter lead Fox over. We sat down to the meal that we had thrown together.

"Fox, I know I promised a special meal, but someone distracted me. I hope you will find this acceptable."

For a few minutes nothing was said and then we all erupted into speech at once. That brought laughter and we progressed from there. During dinner I watched the two of them. Fox reaching out tentatively to touch, John allowing, but then pulling back when he saw either of us watching.

By the time I brought out fruit for our dessert, Fox had stopped trying to touch. So I began a not so subtle campaign of my own. I cannot tell you why I felt the need to help the relationship along. Maybe it was the desire to help the man who had helped give me a life with the man I loved. Or maybe it was just that I could see the feelings John was trying so hard to fight.

Love is never wrong; no matter for whom you feel it.

So I started to touch Fox, just his hand or arm, to emphasize my conversation with him. Walter at one point gave me a quizzical look so I nodded toward John. He grinned briefly and then he reached out to touch Fox's hand as if just seeking his attention. My Walter was learning to read my silent language quite well.

After we had finished eating Walter pulled Fox toward the parlor.

"John, would you help Alexei clear the table? I have a wine I want Fox to taste."

Walter was definitely working with me. I watched John as Walter took Fox's arm as he led him from the room.


"Oh! Do you think they will save us some wine?"

I hid my smile from him as he made his excuse.

"I am sure they will."


Fox waited until we were in the parlor before he spoke.

"What are the two of you doing?"

"What are you talking about, Fox?"

"All that touching, and then bringing me out here, leaving John to help clean up. The two of you have never touched me that way before."

"Did you see John's face?"

"What do you mean?"

"He did not like us touching you. John always was a possessive boy. I do not think growing to manhood has changed that a bit."

"You are trying to make him jealous?"

"I am trying to show him his heart. Now take this."

I handed him a glass of wine and poured one for myself. Then I joined him on the settee, making sure I was as close to him as John had been that first morning.

"Walter, I am not sure this is such a good idea. Things between us have been fragile since you saw us earlier today. He was reluctant to come here for dinner."

"Fox, trust me. My brother and I share one trait – sometimes we need to be kicked, before we get a point."

Alexei came into the room talking louder than normal. Seeing us on the settee he immediately headed our way and sat on the other side of Fox. We now had him pinned between us, leaving my brother no choice but to sit in one of the chairs.

"I decided I wanted cool water instead of wine. John, by all means help yourself to the wine. How is it, Fox?"

Alexei leaned in toward Fox, pretending to sniff the bouquet of the wine.

"Smells very good, but then I have learned that Walter is a good judge of wines."

"Alexei, did you get the dishes taken care of?"

"I decided to let them soak in the hot water. I will do them when our guests leave."

John was sitting across from us and he actually made a growling noise as Alexei patted Fox's knee.

"It is getting late; I think Fox and I should leave and allow you to retire. I am sure you need to be up early tomorrow, Walter."

I put my hand on the free knee and smiled at my brother as the smoke sprouted from his ears.

"I have no early plans. Alexei usually wakes me in a very warm manner and we linger a bit."

From the corner of my eye, I saw the blush climb up Fox's face. He was no doubt remembering just exactly how he had seen Alexei wake me. He shifted then and crossed his legs. In the process he trapped Alexei's hand between his thighs, as mine slid almost to his crotch.

John surged up from his chair, toppling it over. He moved quickly to stand in front of us, reaching down, he grabbed Fox's hand sloshing wine all over him. Pulling Fox to his feet, John glared at the two of us.

"Mayhap you can spend your day as a slug-a-bed but I have work to do in the morning. Time to go, Fox."

"John, just because you have things to do does not mean Fox has to leave. He is still recovering, but staying up a little later will not hurt him."

John looked at Fox, seeming to notice the bulge in his trousers and then the flushed face.

"Walter, I never thought of you as the sort to go in for…"

"John. I have no idea what you mean. Fox and I are friends. He helped me save Alexei. I just enjoy his company."

John released Fox's hand and went to the door.

"Are you coming, Fox?"

Fox looked from John to each of us, clearly confused. I wanted to pet him like a puppy; he looked so lost.

"I am leaving, goodnight."

John stormed out the door and Fox went boneless, sitting back on the settee.

"I have no idea what to do."

"Well, if you stay here, he will think we bedded you, not the best solution. Follow him, now, Fox." I spoke gently as I nudged at him to rise.

"He is so angry."

"You have faced torture and a whipping. This is the man you made love to this morning. If he swings at you, grab him, hold on tight, and kiss him."

Fox looked at Alexei and shook his head in denial, but started toward the door.

I called out to him.

"Fox, one more thing – you should let him be in charge tonight. Might be a rough ride, but you may find you enjoy that. Our door is open to you any time you need to come here."

He nodded once more and walked quickly out the door. I reached for Alexei and he moved into my arms.

"Walter, I hope we did not push him too far."

"He is like me, mule-headed. You have to get our attention if you want something."

"You do not think John will really hit him?"

"Not if Fox does not let him. Come, we will clean up the kitchen, then you can tie me to the bed and pretend I am virgin still."

Alexei snorted as he let me pull him to his feet.

"Virgins do not relax when penetrated."

"I will tighten up and try to keep you out."

The next morning, as I worked in the garden with Alexei, Fox rode into the yard. We both smiled as he carefully dismounted. Walking slowly toward us he called a greeting.

"Good morning, Walter, Alexei."

"You look a little uncomfortable, Fox. Are you all right?" I asked as I watched him limp slightly.

"I should be fine, in a week or so."

"John, a little rough?" Alexei asked.

"Not rough, but enduring and frequent."

"Alexei, I think he is bragging."

"John is *your* brother. Fox is probably just telling the truth."

Fox held up his hand.

"Stop! Please. I just came over to let you know we reconciled. I am beginning to feel that it may work out."

"I am glad, Fox. Let me be the first to welcome you to the family."

"Let us not count our chickens yet. I must get back. I want to soak in a tub of warm water. He offered to have it ready for me when I got home."

"Feeling guilty."

Fox smiled and nodded.

"We will see you both on Sunday."


His movements were difficult so I moved forward to give him a leg up. He murmured, "Thank you." Then rode away.

Alexei's arms wrapped around me from behind.

"They are not over the rough times are they?"

"Probably not, but they are on more equal ground now. John will come around. I did, did I not?"

"Thank you, lord."

His lips caressed my neck before he released me. We went back to our work and our own thoughts. I felt sure that John and Fox would walk the same road, but like us, it was not destined to be always smooth.


Over the next few months, there were nights when Fox slept on our floor. Of course, most of them ended with our being awoken as John came after him during the night. A few times John slipped in, and we knew he was there by the moaning, as he tried to make amends with sex and no words.

On those nights, we often peeked through the door if the candles were lit or the moon was full. I had to agree with Walter that they were beautiful together, and their reconciliations often led to incredible love making for us.

Then came a night when John didn't show up. Nor was he there at breakfast. Fox helped Walter tend the stock, looking tired and worn. By lunch we couldn't take anymore and asked what had happened.

"Fox, Talk to us. We want to help."

"You two do not need to get in the middle of this. It is bad enough that this is the only place I have to go."

"Fox, my brother is even more stubborn than I. Just tell me what happened. Mayhap I can talk to him."

"That will not help."

"How can you know, if I do not try?"

"Because this is part of the problem. He thinks I want you. That I am with him because you would not have me."

"Damn! Why would he think that?"

"He was being affectionate the other morning and I was responding in my sleep. But I was dreaming about the two of you. About one of the times I watched you and pleasured myself."

His face was bright red, giving me the urge to chuckle. We knew he had watched but not that he had 'pleasured himself'. I bit the inside of my cheek to keep back a smile.

"It is not unusual for a man to have dreams such as those."

"Walter, you don't understand, it was not the dream; it was calling out your name as I climaxed."

Walter groaned and dropped his face to his hands. I looked at Fox, seeing his misery.

"You did try to explain, I assume."

"Of course, I did, Alexei. He would not hear me. We ended up shouting at each other and I left when he raised his hand to me."

Walter's head snapped up, "He did not hit you, did he?" The look in Walter's eyes did not bode well if that had happened.

"No, but he would have if I had stayed. I do not believe that we could ever get past that if it happened."

Walter got to his feet; "I will go talk to him."

I reached out to grip Walter's arm. "Best not do that, Walter. Hearing you deny things will not help at this point."

"Then I will go and ask Mother to speak with him."

"Walter, do not involve your Mother, please. That would just be more evidence in John's mind." Fox pleaded.

Then the idea came to me that I should talk to him.

"Walter, sit!"

He looked at me startled. It had been some time since I had used the command voice on him. I almost smiled when his ass hit the chair.

"I will go talk to him as the other injured party."


They both looked at me with open mouths.

"Trust me. If he will listen to anyone right now it would probably be me."

"Alexei, he is my brother; I have known him all his life."

"Yes you have, but right now you are the other man. Let me try."

"Very well, but if he does not listen to you, I am going to reason with him as I did when we were boys."

I shook my head at him and headed out to saddle my horse. I let my mind go blank as I rode toward John's cottage. Trying to plan what to say never worked. Going by my instincts was the best method for me in most situations.

John was outside, currying his horse when I rode up. He looked even worse than Fox. Lack of sleep had left dark circles under his eyes. He said nothing, just waited. I dismounted, walked to the fence and spoke.

"Fox is at our cottage again. I am surprised that you have not come to collect him yet."

"He is where he wishes to be. Although, you might want to get back there and protect your interests."

"My interests? What do you mean by that?"

"He covets my brother."

I laughed, as John's scowl grew.

"Even if that were true, John, Walter is mine. I am the only man ever to bed him. No other ever shall."

"I would not be so sure. Now that you have taught him the pleasures, another man who wants him would be attractive."

"Flattering to him, yes, but not a threat to me. Fox is Walter's friend nothing more."

"Then why is it he called out my brother's name as he spilled his seed in my bed?"

"Dreams seem very real when they happen. Fox often saw us together when he was the Captain of my guards. No one can control dreams. Have you not had dreams of someone you would never approach? Someone who you feel only friendship for?"

The blush rising on John's face gave me an answer to that question.

"I hit him."

The whisper was so low I just caught it.

"He told us he left before that happened."

I immediately knew why Fox had lied about that. From the look in John's eyes, I knew he suspected.


"He will forgive you, if you ask. But do not ask unless you are ready to commit to him as your brother has to me. He deserves no less than that."

"I love him, Alexei."

"Have you told him?"


"Why not?"

"It scares the hell out of me. What if he grows bored with me? He could have richer men, younger men."

"Now you sound like your brother! What is it with the two of you? Money, youth? If you make Fox as happy as Walter makes me, he will never stray. Money means nothing if your bed is cold at night. And callow youth cannot compete with a strong man who makes you soar with just a smile."

"You truly believe that? That Fox sees me as you see Walter?"


He sighed heavily.

"I need to bathe."

I smiled as I caught the delaying tactic.

"I will wait and we will ride back together."

I took a seat in the yard as he went to clean up. When he came out, I could see that he was nervous.

"John, you should not delay and let things fester longer. But only do this if you are sure. For I swear, should you hit him again, you will answer to me."

"If I do, I shall deserve whatever you do to me."

His smile was genuine. I waited as he saddled his horse and we rode toward home. Walter and Fox were in the garden when we rode up. I nodded toward the cottage and Walter nodded, before starting toward the corral. We unsaddled my horse and then went inside.

Neither John nor Fox moved until we entered the cottage. I am sure they knew we would watch. John slid down from his horse and walked to stand a few feet from Fox.

We could not hear the conversation. Fox stood with his arms crossed as John spoke to him. Slowly the arms dropped as Fox answered. Then John must have said the magic words. Fox literally threw himself at John. We smiled as John kissed Fox as if he never intended to stop.

"I guess my brother has a little sense left. Now, I won't have to go and kick his butt."

"I think they will work it out now."

I pulled Walter into a kiss and when we came up for air, John and Fox were gone, but Fox's horse was still in our corral.

Fox never again slept on our floor.



"Alex, that one has a very different feel to it."

"I know, Walter. I did some history research and I couldn't figure out the place or time period. There are so many anomalies. It is almost as if I dreamed this."

"But our accounts are too similar for it to be dreams. Especially the descriptions of John and Fox."

"A lifetime where Mulder and I got along. Who would have thought? Must have been some alternate Earth."

Walter grinned at me. "Not just got along, but considered each other friends. Maybe we should invite him and Scully over and play these for them."

"Don't push it, slave."

"Yes, Master."

But he looked anything but submissive.

"Naked, ass up, lubed, bed, now!"

"Is that a list, or an order?"

I growled; he chuckled before getting to his feet and heading for the stairs. I shut off the TV, locked up the house and followed him.

At the door of our bedroom, I stopped. Walter was on the bed, ass up, shoulders down, fingers busy in his ass. I smiled as my hand moved to the buttons of my jeans.

"Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to give me the high hard one?"

"And just were would you like the 'high hard one'?"

His head rose and he turned to grin at me.

"As far up my ass as you can stick it."

"That sounds like something I could manage, maybe."

It was my turn to chuckle as he growled. He was up and across the room, my clothes ripped in his haste to get me naked. Then he literally threw me on the bed. Before I could get my breath back, he was straddling me and dropping on my cock.

"That's it. That's what I want, need, crave." His voice rough, deep, sex drenched.

"Well then, ride my cock!"

He laughed loudly, bent to caress my tonsils with a hot tongue, then started to ride. It was hard and fast and the neighbor's dog howled right along with us. Afterward as we lay side by side panting, I thought back to the tapes. Maybe I could try a little harder to accept Mulder, but only if he quit making eyes at my slave. It was as if Walter read my mind.

"Always yours, Lexi, no matter what."

I reached for his hand, our fingers entwined, and soon sleep claimed us both.


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