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by beetle
Rated: 18+ · Chapter · Gay/Lesbian · #2011815
Karthik and Bleddyn visit the Widow Robert. Nothing goes as planned.

“So,” I said when Bleddyn and I had been riding along for what seemed like eternity in uncomfortable silence. We’d just reached the outskirts of Gwydir Forest after traveling along the road for a bit, he on Arwel, me on a horse whose name Bleddyn hadn’t told me. But her gate was much better than Queen’s. “What is Llyn Tynymynydd, anyway?”

Bleddyn, riding just far enough ahead of me that I couldn’t see his face, didn’t answer for a few minutes. When he spoke, his voice was matter-of-fact. “It is a lake. Llyn is the Cymraeg word for lake. Ty n-y-mynydd means the mountain house.”

“Oh,” I said, blushing for no reason and wishing I hadn’t asked. Then we rode along in silence thereafter for another eternity. Till the silence got so loud and obnoxious, I had to break it.

“So, are we gonna ride all the way to Mountain House Lake in this lovely, companionable silence, or are we gonna talk about what happened?” I asked him hesitantly, my voice shaking just a little. Frankly, I didn’t know which would have scared me more, a yes or a no.

Bleddyn, meanwhile, tensed up so much I could hear the slight jingle of his armor when his muscles shifted and tightened.

“There is nothing to speak about, Master Karthik.”

So, we’re back to that, I thought wearily, closing my eyes on the tears that filled them. Even though he wasn’t looking at me, I didn’t want to give Bleddyn the satisfaction of having made me—me—cry. Though I seemed to be doing it a lot, lately. And all thanks to him.

No, all thanks to me. It was hardly Bleddyn’s fault I’d let myself grow so attached to him so fast. Of the two of us, I surely knew better than to fall for a guy just because he was hot and an epic lay. That way lay disaster, I knew from painful personal experience.

But Bleddyn had been more than that, or so I’d thought. He’d been . . . my knight in shining armor. My Prince Charming, so to speak. He’d treated me, in the uber-brief time we’d been sort of together, better than all my previous boyfriends combined. He’d been tender and sweet and protective. Possessive in a way that made me feel special, not controlled. And the way he’d looked at me . . . he’d made me feel about ten thousand feet tall.

And now, here I was, let down again, playing the Smiths’ greatest hits in my head because I’d just gotten kicked to the curb again.

I wiped my eyes and wished I knew how to slow my horse down so Bleddyn could pull ahead of me far enough that I could cry and do my Morrissey impersonation in private. But as we rode on, and my tears began to abate some—not the heartache . . . that felt everlasting . . . but I guess there’s a ceiling on tears no matter how bad the hurt—I started singing just to keep myself company. It’s not as if Bleddyn cared. He was probably off in his own world of Jesus and Hell and which virginal maid he was going to woo and marry to please his father.

Braiding bits of my horse’s mane, I began to sing, not caring if Bleddyn heard or didn’t:

I am the son
And the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir
Of nothing in particular

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

I am the son
And the heir
Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar
I am the son and heir
Of nothing in particular

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does

There's a club if you'd like to go
You could meet somebody who really loves you
So you go and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home and you cry
And you want to die

When you say it's gonna happen "now"
Well when exactly do you mean?
See I've already waited too long
And all my hope is gone

You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way?
I am human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does. . . .


And if I put a little extra emphasis on the chorus, especially the last two lines, so what?

When I fell silent, I smiled to myself a little, and finished off another braid on the nameless horse. I put my brain on shuffle, hoping to come up with another Smiths’ song that’d fit my current mood of raw heart-break and weary cynicism. There were many, and like a jukebox, I cycled through bits of them all, each bit only serving to make what I was feeling even more intense, till tears threatened again.

This is ridiculous, I thought harshly, swiping at my leaking eyes. What difference does it make which song I pick or how bad it makes me feel? It won’t change the reality of my situation: I’m stranded in 1626 with no marketable skills, and I’ve alienated my only defender because I just had to sleep with him. I’m essentially alone in a foreign place, in an even more foreign time, and living with the threat of a death sentence for who I am. A reshuffling of priorities is in order, Karthik! I should just be glad this little thing I had with Bleddyn didn’t end with one or the both of us losing our heads to an ax, and be more careful in the future. Which, as far as I know, is going to be spent in the past. So act like it!

But despite all that, all I could think about was my stupid broken heart insisted on plying me with maudlin memories of the past couple of days, washed in rose-tinted light. It insisted that, if not Bleddyn, then no one, never minding the very real and dangerous situation I was still trapped in. In fact, the only thing it took away from my rousing internal speech to get it with the program was the perfect song for its current state of despair.

I’d just opened my mouth to start What Difference Does it Make? when I was startled out of my reverie by Bleddyn’s soft, thoughtful words.

“’Twas a lovely madrigal, Karthik of Nayar. You have a fine voice.”

Startled to hear him speak at all, let alone in praise of something I’d done, I looked up to find Bleddyn had slowed his horse and was riding practically abreast with me.

“Uh, thanks.” I shrugged and looked back down at my fingers, still playing with the horse’s mane.

“Is that a song from America?”

I snorted. “No. The name of the song is ‘How Soon is Now?’ by an English band called the Smiths. They were really popular in the 1980’s and early 90s. A little before my time, but a really good band . . . they were the background music of high school, for me.” I laughed a little. Steven Morrissey always reminded me of my fraught teenage years, and how sincere I was. How absolutely naked.

By the time I grew my adult armor, high school had been over and the adventure that was college had begun. I was jaded—but not too—and the sincerity and earnestness of my teens was replaced by the sarcastic, snarky bitch I am today.

Good times, good times. . . .

“These . . . Smiths . . . did they work metal as well as they sang?”

I glanced at Bleddyn. He seemed utterly serious. As usual. I sighed. “They weren’t actual smiths, that was just their name.”

“‘Tis a strange name to take if one is not a smith or the descendant of one,” he noted, frowning at the woods ahead.

“Yeah, well, it gets even stranger. Strawberry Alarm Clock, Jefferson Starship, Toad the Wet Sprocket—bands have to come up with some pretty weird names in the future to stand out.”

“Say you truly?”

“Truly. All the normal names are taken.”

Bleddyn hmmed and smiled just a little. It wasn’t exactly a happy smile, but it was better than that grim look that made him resemble Rhys so much. I found myself smiling a little bit, too, and I looked away before Bleddyn caught me staring.

This time, the silence we rode in was much less uncomfortable, though still a little tense. This time, when that silence was broken, it was by Bleddyn.

“I would hear more of these Smiths, if you’re of a mind to sing further,” he said lowly, humbly, and again, I was startled. When I looked over at him, he was red about the face, but met my gaze steadily, almost. . . .

Well, I knew how I wished he was looking at me. But surely that yearning on his face was my projection of my own feelings, and the desires of my own restless, broken heart.

“Why not?” I replied cavalierly, looking away, at the way ahead. At least I’d be distracting myself from wanting what I couldn’t have anymore. “Okay, um . . . this one is called What Difference Does it Make?

All men have secrets and here is mine
So let it be known
We have been through hell and high tide
I can surely rely on you. . . .
And yet you start to recoil
Heavy words are so lightly thrown
But still I'd leap in front of a flying bullet for you

So, what difference does it make?
So, what difference does it make?
It makes none
But now you have gone
And you must be looking very old tonight

The devil will find work for idle hands to do
I stole and I lied, and why?
Because you asked me to!
But now you make me feel so ashamed
Because I've only got two hands
Well, I'm still fond of you, oh-ho-oh

So, what difference does it make?
Oh, what difference does it make?
Oh, it makes none
But now you have gone
And your prejudice won't keep you warm tonight

Oh, the devil will find work for idle hands to do
I stole, and then I lied
Just because you asked me to
But now you know the truth about me
You won't see me anymore
Well, I'm still fond of you, oh-ho-oh

But no more apologies
No more, no more apologies
Oh, I'm too tired
I'm so sick and tired
And I'm feeling very sick and ill today
But I'm still fond of you, oh-ho-oh

Oh, my sacred one. . . .
Oh. . . .


When I finished—I really shredded that high note, too, and usually that’s the one place my voice gives out—Bleddyn was watching me consideringly, his brow furrowed in concentration.

“The words are . . . strange, but filled, I sense, with heart-break, loneliness, and loss,” he decided finally, and I laughed a little.

“That’s the Smiths—and Steven Morrissey, the lead singer of the band. Filled with heart-break, loneliness, and loss. Sometimes, listening to their songs is like an education in misery. Other times, it’s a . . . balm. Understanding in a world that feels as if it’s going mad and taking me with it,” I said, then blushed, realizing I might have revealed more than I was currently comfortable with.

Bleddyn’s tilted his head curiously. “And you say their songs remind you of your youth?”

I nodded. “In some ways. I found it easy to relate to their lyrics—um, words—and the feelings their songs evoked were feelings I knew. When I was fourteen, my dad died, and I experienced loss. When I was fifteen, my first boyfriend broke up with me and I was heartbroken. And ever since then, I guess I’ve been lonely. . . .” I shrugged again, uncomfortable with the territory we were treading on. “The Smiths and Morrissey make great music for masochists.”

“For whom?”

“Nothing, nothing.” I sighed, looking down at my horse’s new do—bunches of half-done braids—and thinking I was a walking Morrissey song.

*


By the time we reached the lake, the overcast sky had begun to rain steadily, if not heavily. Yet.

We skirted the lake to the Northeastern shore, and then Bleddyn took us back into the woods for a bit. Minutes, really, before we came upon the cottage.

It was like something out of a fairy-tale: thatched roof, ivy-covered trellis, smoke coming out of the squat chimney top. Next to it on the right was a barn that was on the narrow side, but still respectable.

As we clopped into Gwenllian’s front yard, wary of the neat, sprawling garden to either side of the front door, with herbs and vegetables growing, Bleddyn and I looked at each other questioningly. Then he shrugged and pulled ahead a little. He was the first to stop and first off his horse, but he waited patiently for me to reach him before helping me off. I thanked him without looking at him, not wanting him to see whatever expression was on my face.

Then we were walking slowly, in deference for my damned ankle, up the stone-paved walk to her front door. Bleddyn raised his hand to knock, but then glanced at me as if to ask was I sure. I smiled limply and nodded. The only thing I’d ever been surer of was him. Though I kept that information to myself.

So Bleddyn knocked briskly, and we waited. And waited. And waited.

He knocked again, more heavily, so that the knocking echoed in the clearing around the cottage.

The only response we got was the sky opening up to rain even harder, soaking us both in under a minute.

“Clearly she is not at home,” Bleddyn said, and I rolled my eyes, blinking out rainwater.

“You think, Captain Obvious?” I shivered, cold and damp and suddenly miserable again. I’d been so dead-set on getting my answers, and now I was being put off. And to top it off, I’d be riding back to the castle soaking wet. “So, what do we do now? Go back to the castle?”

Bleddyn shook his head and nodded to the small barn. “Methinks we can wait out the rain in there. Then, if Gweddw Robert has not returned by dusk, we will return to the castle.”

“Oh-kay,” I said doubtfully as Bleddyn put an arm around my waist and began leading me toward the barn. “But she left a fire burning, so that means she’ll be back soon, right?”

“’Tis merely banked, not burning. If the widow is tending the sick, she may be gone for days.”

I groaned, and just then it began to rain even harder. Bleddyn and I hurried, as fast as my ankle would allow, toward the barn.

*


When Bleddyn saw me settled in an empty stall near the back of the barn, he went to get the horses, leaving me to look around.

The barn was clean, and only housed two horses—not counting the ones Bleddyn and I had ridden to get there—and three cows despite there being eight stalls. The hay was clean and the barn itself didn’t stink of manure as badly as I’d expected. Above me I could make out the hay loft and hear the occasional drip of water in the hay. Gwenllian’s roof needed tarring or whatever was done to prevent leaks in 1626.

I spread some of the hay out in the empty stall Bleddyn had left me in and sat on it. It was like sitting on the mattress in the guest room at the castle, poke-y and a bit uncomfortable. But it was dry, and that was something to be said for it.

By the time Bleddyn had lead the horses into the barn and gotten them settled in stalls, I’d removed and wrung out my soaked shirt and was wringing out my dripping hair. I’d heard him puttering around, making the horses comfortable, but had drifted off into my own world, and so didn’t notice when he came up to the stall I was in. I just looked up after I was done with my hair and he was standing there, still as a statue, staring at me with wide-eyed surprise. His face was flushed and his lips parted . . . if I didn’t know better, I’d have sworn he was turned on.

But of course, after the tongue-lashing his father had no doubt given him, Bleddyn was probably put off me for life.

Trying not to sigh, I asked: “What’s up?”

“I—” Bleddyn began, then flushed deeply, looking away and wringing his hands. “I’ve settled the horses. All that remains is for us to await the widow.”

“Alright,” I said slowly, frowning as Bleddyn started to turn away. “Wait—where’re you going?”

Bleddyn paused and took a deep breath and spoke without looking at me. “I think it best if I keep an eye out for the widow’s return, and leave you to rest in privacy.”

“Oh. . . .”

Now Bleddyn glanced at me, his gaze unreadable as he took me in. I probably looked like a drowned rat.

“I’ll leave you to your rest and privacy,” he finally said once more, but made no move to go. We just stared at each other for what felt like forever. I tried to smile—to not let it show that the only thing I wanted in that moment was for him to be kissing me and holding me . . . pinning me to the hay and pressing his hard body against mine. . . .

I tried to smile, my lips pressed together in an effort not to ask him to stay.

But maybe some of that yearning did show. And maybe it disgusted him, because he abruptly turned away and marched toward the front of the barn, leaving me to my rest and privacy.

*


Weak . . . I was so weak. . . .

I couldn't stir to move from my bed, to which I’d been confined for days, now. I lay fevered and raving, sometimes, almost lucid, others. But one thing was constant: the pain in my gut as I lay there, simply trying to breathe past the agony that assailed me.

Sometimes, people spoke above me in hushed whispers, sometimes they spoke
to me, but only ever to ask me how I felt. And I could only ever answer them in grunts and groans to please, please make the pain stop. Sometimes things were poured down my throat . . . bitter tonics that lessened pain and put me to sleep for many nightmarish hours. And when I slept, I dreamt of being beaten and chased, only to be awakened by my own thrashing. By the fresh agony of my disturbed wound and, sometimes, my renewed fever.

They would have two or three strong lads hold me down when they cleaned the wound—repeatedly, seemingly to no avail—and stuff my mouth with a rag soaked in spirits to calm me and muffle my screams.

All I wanted was for the pain to stop. I didn’t want the mother and father I’d never known. I didn’t even want the boy I had loved to the detriment of my life. I just wanted the pain to
stop. . . .

And my waking nightmare of being on death’s door would become confused with my nightmares of being beaten and chased . . . sometimes I could swear I felt my love’s hand in my own as we ran across the grounds of Gwydir Castle, no plan as to where we were going, only knowing we were going together.

Until
he caught up with us and—

—beat us. Worse than ever he had. And as always, I didn’t get the worst of it. As always, the worst of it went to him, whom I loved, and had always loved, and would always love. As I lay, half-insensate on the filthy stones of the courtyard, I could barely move to reach out a trembling hand. Could barely speak to beg
him to stop hitting and kicking and hurting. . . .

“*
Ewythr, na, os gwelwch yn dda. . . peidiwch â brifo ef. . . ! Yr oedd pob un fy ei wneud! Fod yn ddieuog!

I kept repeating some variation of that over and over, not until
he stopped, but until he was stopped, and dragged away from the limp, bloody, bruised body of my love.

Surely he is dead, I thought, and in so thinking, wanted to die, too. I tried to crawl toward him, to touch him—to kiss him once more before the fires of Hell came for us, but the world began to go dark and there were hands on me, pulling me onto my back. Canny dark blue eyes stared down into my own, horrified and sad.

“Gwil—” a low voice said, and then said no more. I rolled my aching head toward him, toward my love, who was being lifted up as if he weighed nothing. My vision was too compromised to make out who was doing the lifting, but it mattered not, for he was
dead and no amount of lifting would change that.

And all I wanted was to die, too.

To die and be laid to rest next to him . . . but they were taking his body away from mine. Far away. . . .

“**
Arhoswch i mi, Cefnder, canys mi a'th ganlynaf i ba le yr wyt ti yn myned—”

*


“***Arhoswch i mi, Cefnder . . . arhoswch. . . .

“****Ni fynni di deffro, fy nghariad? Am mai dim ond breuddwyd . . . dim ond breuddwyd.

I startled awake to a soft, concerned voice and a gentle hand caressing my cheek. Bleddyn’s worried face hovered over my own and I blinked in confusion, tears momentarily blurring my vision before rolling down my cold cheeks.

“Bleddyn?”

“*****Ie, ngoleuni fy nghalon. Mae'n wyf,” he murmured, his thumb still brushing my cheek, spreading the wetness of my tears, as tears gathered in his own dark eyes. “******Ti yn wylo, ac yn galw allan am gymorth tra ti cysgu.

I flung my arms around Bleddyn and buried my face in his neck, sobbing for a reason I couldn’t define. All I could do was shudder, and mumble: “*******Peidiwch â gadael i mi, os gwelwch yn dda. . . peidiwch â gadael i mi. . . .”

“********Peidio wylo, addfwyn fy nghariad. . . canys mi byth yn gadael i ti.

I didn’t know what any of it meant—not even the gobbledy-goop I was saying, but Bleddyn’s reply comforted me, nonetheless. Just his voice, soothing in my hair, and his arms around me . . . the feel of him against me . . . it was everything I needed, and it banished that awful dream to the deepest pit of my subconscious where it would hopefully stay, never to come bubbling to the surface again.

When my sobbing had subsided into occasional hitches, Bleddyn leaned back a little to look down into my eyes. His own were a little red from weeping.

“*********O'r hyn y gwnaethost ti freuddwyd, fy ngoleuni? Dywedwch wrthyf,” he said softly, and I shook my head in complete bafflement. Bleddyn frowned, but reached up to caress my face tenderly. “What did you dream, Karthik?”

I shook my head again. “I don’t remember. I don’t want to remember. All I know is . . . it felt like dying, and . . . I was glad to go.”

“Do not say that,” Bleddyn whispered, holding me tighter and leaning in to kiss my forehead, lingering to murmur something in Welsh I couldn’t catch.

“It was just a dream, but . . . it hurt so much,” I said incredulously, shuddering again as the pain of my vanished dream resounded in my heart like a damaged bell being nonetheless rung. “It felt like I’d lost everything that mattered to me, and I couldn’t lift a finger to stop it. Like I was finally, truly alone in the world, and always would be.”

“It was merely a dream. A bad one, but a dream, nevertheless,” Bleddyn murmured, looking down at me solemnly. “You are not alone.”

“Aren’t I?” I asked ruefully, remembering what had happened earlier in the morning and trying to push him away from me. But he wouldn’t budge. “Bleddyn—”

“You are not alone,” Bleddyn said again, leaning down to kiss me on the mouth, as softly and sweetly as I’ve ever been kissed. His hands came up to cup my face and I moaned, parting my lips to allow his tongue entrance. It slid and flirted alongside my own, plundering my mouth and mapping it. I settled back in the hay as Bleddyn’s body settled on top of my own, heavy and damp and perfect.

His touch, his very presence, was the antidote to the way that dream had made me feel. Every tease of his tongue, every slide of his rough, callused hands down my bare arms and chest, every time he ground his hard cock against my own, drove that feeling farther away, until I had wrapped my arms and legs around him tight and was begging him: “Make love to me, Bleddyn . . . please. . . .”

Bleddyn stopped kissing me to look down into my eyes, clearly torn. I could feel how hard he was, and for all that he’d stopped kissing me, he hadn’t stopped grinding against me. But that look of grim guilt was on his face, and he looked so much like his father in that moment that I was very nearly disgusted.

“Surely I am already Hellbound, and beyond repentance,” Bleddyn breathed, his eyes closing. I felt a surge of anger, then, and pushed him off me, something I only managed because I had the element of surprise on my side. I rolled away from him and sat up, tears in my eyes once more. Only these tears were nothing to do with my dream and everything to do with my waking reality.

“Leave me alone, Bleddyn,” I said wearily when his hand settled on my arm. I jerked it away and clutched the appendage to me as if it’d been burned. “I’m not gonna be your consolation prize for not being good enough to get into Heaven. I’m not gonna be the one you blame every time you lament your lost redemption and purity. If you wanna hate yourself, go right ahead. Just do it without me.”

And with that, I got to my feet as nimbly as I was able, and hobbled out of the stall. Out of the barn, where even I wouldn’t be able to tell what was tears and what was the rain.

TBC


*Uncle, no, please . . . don't hurt him. . . ! It was all my doing! He is innocent!
**Wait for me, Cousin, for I will follow thee whither thou goest. . . .
***Wait for me, Cousin . . . wait. . . .
****Wilt thou not awaken, my love? For it is only a dream . . . only a dream.
*****Yes, light of my heart. It is I,
******Thou wert weeping, and calling out for aid whilst thou slept.
*******Don’t leave me, please . . . don’t leave me.
********Weep not, gentle my love . . . for I will never leave thee.
*********Of what didst thou dream, my light? Tell me.

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