Karthik gets more answers and an explanation of space-time . . . sexy-times are had.
|I don’t know how long we’d kissed for, but when we were done, the pot was gone (but our mostly full bowls were still there), and Gwenllian was standing at her open front door, looking out into the fast-approaching night.
“I love you,” Bleddyn whispered on my cheek, kissing it. “I’ve been remiss up to this point in showing you proof of that love, but no more.”
“You haven’t been remiss,” I said, reaching up to cup his face in my hand. I leaned back to look into his somber eyes and smiled. “You’ve just had a lot on your plate to deal with. And . . . no matter what Fate has planned for us, we’ve after all only just met seventy-two hours ago. I’m a lot to get used to in three days. Even if you love me, I can be . . . difficult.”
Bleddyn returned my smile. “You are a marvel of sweetness and kindness. Of goodness. And your heart is the bravest, most open one I’ve ever known. And I want you to know that from this moment on, I shall try to be more worthy of it.”
“Oh, Bleddyn,” I laughed a little, embarrassed that he seemed to think so well of me, when he didn’t know the half of what was wrong with me. “There’s a reason I was still single back in 2014. I’m the one who has to be more worthy. And more patient, more understanding, more trusting, less precipitous, less sarcastic and spiteful—”
“You are none of the latter to me, *ngoleuni fy nghalon, and all of the former.” Bleddyn bussed my lips tenderly. “You are my sweet and lovely Karthik of Nayar. And nothing will ever change that.”
I sniffled and surreptitiously wiped a tear from my face. “And you’re my honorable, strong, brave, good-hearted squire,” I said around a throat full of tears, stroking his cheek with my thumb and letting myself fall into his dark, dark eyes. “I don’t ever want to take you or what we have for granted. I won’t,” I promised him and myself. And with that promise came all my shelved questions—and really, they were fears—about what might happen should Fate decide it had made a mistake after all: Could I truly be whisked back to 2014 the next time it got foggy?
So, forsaking the comfort and wonder that was Bleddyn’s gaze, I looked over his shoulder, to Gwenllian.
“Gwenllian?” When she looked in at me, I smiled sheepishly. “Sorry about the . . . making out in front of you-thing. Sometimes, it’s easy for me to get lost in Bleddyn.”
“And I, you, Karthik,” Bleddyn agreed, leaning into my touch and kissing the pad of my thumb.
Gwenllian’s smile was gentle and understanding. “No apologies are necessary. I, too, have lost myself in love at . . . strange moments. And not so strange ones. Eirian and I were an absolute scandal at our wedding.”
“So I recall,” Bleddyn murmured, chuckling, and I smiled. I was glad that for, however short a time, Gwenllian had had someone to love, who’d loved her back enough to make them both scandalous at their own wedding.
Then I shivered as a chill breeze swept ‘round the cottage. Gwenllian noticed and stepped back inside, closing the door. A moment later she was sitting at the table across from Bleddyn and me, once more.
“I take it, now, you’re ready to ask those questions to which I might have answers?” She asked almost playfully, and I swallowed, nodding.
“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” I glanced at Bleddyn once more, and he smiled encouragingly, kissing my palm again and taking my hand in his and folding it between them. Then we were both turning to Gwenllian.
“Will . . . I mean is there any chance I could be swept back to my own time?” I ventured quietly. “I mean, I know that when I came here, there was a strange fog springing up all around me. Could that happen again any time it gets foggy? I know, it’s a stupid question, but—”
“Any question is a good question when one doesn’t know the answer, Karthik,” Gwenllian said kindly. “And to answer yours . . . the only way you might—and I say might—be sent back to your own time is . . . well, let us simply say that it is love and desire and need, both yours and Bleddyn’s, that keeps you here, and only its absence will send you back.”
Bleddyn and I looked at each other, wide-eyed.
“So . . . you’re saying Fate won’t just up and send me back to the future . . . alone? It can’t?”
Gwenllian grimaced. “Far be it from me to tell Fate what it can and cannot do. I have learned a difficult lesson regarding that very subject. But I will say that Fate seems to have left that decision in yours and Bleddyn’s hands. What holds you here, Karthik, is each other. Nothing more, nothing less. Should either or both of your feelings change. . . .”
I sighed. “Then I might get catapulted back to my own time.”
Shaking my head, I let Bleddyn pull me into his strong, comforting arms. “Why me, specifically? Are Bleddyn and I soulmates?”
“Soulmates?” Gwenllian blinked and her brow furrowed.
“You know . . . two souls that are mated throughout their different lives because they’re meant to be together.” I made myself small in Bleddyn’s arms for a few moments just because it felt good, and because I could. “Is that why we’re falling in love so hard, so fast? I mean, we’ve been pretty much glued together since twelve hours after we met.”
And remembering that twelfth hour, and how it’d been spent, I blushed. Gwenllian winked.
“Soulmates,” she said softly, then laughed. “I like that term! And it’s quite apt at describing what I see when I see the two of you together. As you should be. Your souls have always been one—been two sides of the same coin. They always will be. Nothing can truly tear you asunder, unless you let it. Nothing, do you understand?”
I looked up at Bleddyn and he looked down at me. I thought of Rhys, and what he would have to say about Bleddyn’s new outlook on me.
And Bleddyn thought of . . . probably the same thing.
“We understand, Gweddw,” Bleddyn answered for us both, kissing my forehead. His beard and mustache tickled and I giggled.
“We do,” I concurred, smiling at Gwenllian, and she nodded, seeming satisfied. “I have a few more questions, though—questions about . . . where my soul is now—I mean, surely my soul must’ve existed in this time . . . and I don’t know if you know what reincarnation is, but in my religion we believe that souls don’t just live once, but that they live different lives over and over again until they reach a state of . . . let’s call it perfection. But throughout the lives they live, they become stronger, better, more of what they were meant to be. Or sometimes, they become weaker, worse, and farther from what they were meant to be. But Hindus don’t believe that there’s one Heaven that everyone goes to after merely one lifetime on Earth. We believe that there must be many lifetimes before perfection is reached. So that makes me wonder . . . where and who is my soul, right now?”
Gwenllian looked a bit confused, but spread her hands as if to present me with an answer. “It is right here, and right now. It is you.”
“No, I get that, but what I mean is—” I shook my head, trying to think of a better way to explain reincarnation to a seventeenth century Welsh witch. “If time is a like a straight line,” I began, and Gwenllian’s face cleared from confusion to amusement.
“And who says that it is?”
Now I was the one to blink. “Uh. . . .”
“Time is a difficult concept to master, even for one from four hundred years in the future,” she said, her amusement coloring her voice. “Let it suffice to say that time is not a straight line. Time is a curve with no beginning and no end. And we, as souls, do not merely live lives at different points on the curve . . . we are the curve. We exist at every point along it simultaneously. Your soul, Karthik, is everywhere at once, but your consciousness, what makes you Karthik, is focused heavily on this point in time. On this now. You are the you of this time because you are here. And when you’re in your own time, you are the you of that time, as well.” Gwenllian paused, catching the looks of pure confusion on both Bleddyn’s and my faces. Then she smiled wryly and sighed.
“There aren’t two of your soul wandering around in this now, Karthik. You are one soul that stretches along the curve of time, and many consciousnesses living at different points on that curve, whose focus is always the here and now you are currently experiencing.” Her eyes darted between Bleddyn and me and she threw up her hands a little, laughing. “I’ve lost you.”
“But not by much,” I lied poorly, taking a bite of my heretofore untouched stew.
It really was delicious.
“Think of time as a stew!” Gwenllian said suddenly, as a light bulb practically went on above her head. Bleddyn and I exchanged another glance, shrugged, and settled in to be lost, once more.
“And you’re both quite welcome to come visit me after church, tomorrow,” Gwenllian said as the three of us stood at her door. “Whether it’s to ask more questions, or simply to pay a lonely widow a visit,” she added, but with a quirky smile.
I glanced at Bleddyn who nodded and smiled, squeezing my hand. Grinning, I turned back to Gwenllian and stuck out my free hand. She looked at it, then made a shooing motion and pulled me into a hug. A big one.
Startled, I nonetheless hugged her back, holding back tears. It was like hugging Dierdre, who I supposed I’d never see again. . . .
When we let go, Gwenllian turned to Bleddyn, as if trying to gauge whether or not a hug would be welcome. After a few awkward seconds, the both of them standing there, I realized neither of them would be making the first move. So I elbowed Bleddyn in the side, garnering a stern glance and a muffled jingle for my efforts.
“Er . . . thank you, Gweddw Robert,” Bleddyn said almost dourly, opening his arms and stepping toward her. Gwenllian’s smile returned and she hugged him—more a brief squeeze than a hug. But it was good enough in my non-exacting book.
“Thank you for keeping an open mind, Master Bleddyn.”
“It is simply Bleddyn, Gweddw.”
Gwenllian grinned. “And I am simply Gwenllian.”
Bleddyn almost smiled. “I will remember that in future.”
I got the warm-fuzzies—something I almost never got, at least not this side of twenty.
After a few more pleasantries, and promises to come visit on the morrow—I was surprised and relieved to know it was a Saturday, the same day it would have been in 2014 had I still been there—Bleddyn and I, hand in hand, me carrying a lamp for us to see by, made our way across the yard, to the barn, where waited our horses.
I did wonder, however, if time was passing in the same fashion for 2014 . . . or had it sped up? Or slowed down? From what I got of Gwenllian’s explanation of time as a curving stew—more poetry and recipe than science, and thus a bit tougher for me to follow—all times were happening at once, though each soul on the continuum experienced it one linear life at a time, rather than all times and lives at once. So literally all times would be happening, now. Right now, it was 1624, 2014, and 3014, and 4014, and Saturday and Monday and Friday—
It was mind-boggling, was what it was.
“Tell me what you are thinking,” Bleddyn murmured as we stepped into the barn. I smiled over at him and leaned on his arm for a moment.
“Just thinking about time, and how it’s all happening now,” I said, laughing a little. “Wondering what my friends are doing. If they’re looking for me . . . if they’ve told my mother I’ve turned up missing.” I sighed as we stopped in front of Arwel, who whickered a greeting to his master. Bleddyn patted the horse’s nose and smiled.
Men and their horses, I thought with a smile, myself. Then I held the lamp up so Bleddyn could saddle him.
“They may, indeed, be quite worried for you,” Bleddyn mused as his fingers flew quickly and automatically over straps and buckles. “I am sorry that your journey here will have caused them consternation and grief . . . but I am also selfishly glad that you’re here with me.”
Bleddyn shot me a glance and paused in his strapping and buckling. “I am sorry at the consternation their worry and grief causes you, my love. But again, I am glad you’re here . . . with me.”
I leaned in and kissed Bleddyn gently, till his large, work-roughened hands were slipping under my shirt to sweep up and down my chilly back.
“I’m glad I’m here with you, too. If I had it to do over, I would make the same choices that led me here. I’m certain that I always have and that I always will,” I whispered as Bleddyn’s kisses wended their way south, to my throat and neck. I set the lamp on the top right wall of Arwel’s stall and wrapped my arms around Bleddyn’s neck as he kissed and nibbled and licked his way to the hollow junction between my neck and my shoulder.
“The scent and feel of your skin undoes me, every time,” he murmured, one hand sliding down past the small of my back, down my borrowed trousers, to grip my right cheek possessively. I lifted my left leg, wrapping it around his right, to give him better access, and chuckled as his hard cock made contact with mine through our clothes. “I’m probably in dire need of a bath.” I said dryly, then moaned as the tip of Bleddyn’s callused finger rubbed insistently at my sore and still pretty sensitized asshole, without pushing in.
“You smell so good,” Bleddyn exhaled on my shoulder, then inhaled deeply after turning his face back to the crook of my neck. “Like spring and autumn combined: of new grass and woodsmoke and nutmeg.”
I blushed. “It must be love,” I joked, but held him tighter. Bleddyn took that as his cue to slide his hands down to the backs of my thighs and lift me up . . . and all with an ease that left me gasping and laughing and horny as hell. Bleddyn smiled a little on my neck, and continued to kiss, nibble, and lick me.
He carried me back to the empty stall where we’d had our last assignation and laid me down gently on the blanket Gwenllian had covered us with. Then he gazed down at me hungrily as he undid first his mail shirt, and removed it along with his undershirt. Next came his trousers which he simply pushed down. In the feeble light coming from the distant lamp, I could see he was as stiff as a flagpole in winter. But he also looked solemn and slightly dangerous, what with all the shadows. I shivered, nearly swept out to sea with wanting him. In me, on me, around me . . . just so long as I could hold him and be with him.
“Are you chilled, **ngoleuni fy nghalon?” he asked quietly, and I held my arms open.
“Yes,” I said. “Come warm me up.”
By the time we arrived back at the Road, it was full dark, and the stars and moon were out.
The lamp Gwenllian had lent us helped with navigating our way back, however. Both Bleddyn and I rode Arwel, and leading my erstwhile horse behind him. It was quite chilly out—springtime in Wales, I suppose—but I barely noticed, for Bleddyn’s arms around me and his body pressed against my back.
Once we arrived at the castle, Bleddyn stabled our horses while I watched him, and maybe grabbed his ass a few times, causing him to chuckle and blush. Then, when he was done, he caught me in his arms and kissed me passionately—like, till my knees were weak. Not that it took much.
“What is it with you and stables?” I asked when he let me up for a quick breather. He was hard—again—and had been for most of the ride back. “I’m beginning to think this is a fetish, it gets you going so fast.”
“Never mind. Just take me to bed—preferably not here—and fuck me unconscious.”
Bleddyn groaned softly, his hands clenching tight on my waist. “I would ravish you till the sun makes its first foray across the sky, ***llawenydd o fy mywyd . . . but first, I must report to my father and you, I think, may want to speak with Lord Owen about his father’s most generous offer.”
Now, I was the one to groan. “Baby,” I whined, “can’t those wait till after you’ve ravished me all night?”
Bleddyn leaned his forehead against mine. “I promise, I’ll not be long.”
“Promise? Already broken,” I murmured, insinuating a hand between us so I could stroke his cock through his trousers. Bleddyn hissed and one of his big hands slid around to my ass to knead and squeeze and hold me tighter against him.
“My lovely, wanton Karthik,” he breathed, kissing me teasingly, briefly. “Sooner begun is sooner done.”
I sighed and wrapped my arms around Bleddyn’s neck, looking into his solemn, but heated eyes. “And . . . will you still feel like ravishing me after reporting to Rhys?” I asked hesitantly.
Bleddyn frowned, his lips pursing slightly. “I will never not want to ravish you, Karthik. Simply to see you is to desire you with a fierce and burning lust that makes even thought all but impossible. My father has long known how to . . . upset me quickest. He is as well-versed in such matters as he is in matters of battle. But I’ve made my choice. I will no longer let his poisonous words stand between me and the one I love. Nor will I let such slights as he makes against you go unchallenged any longer.”
“Slights?” I snorted. “There’ve been slights? Against me? I can only imagine.”
Making an apologetic face, Bleddyn kissed the tip of my nose. “Never again will I let such insults pass unaddressed. Such disrespectful slander should not stand.”
And I wanted to ask what his father had said about me, even though I already had some idea—likely the medieval version of fag . . . and probably something a good deal more insulting than catamite. I wanted to know exactly what Rhys thought of me, a perfect stranger, and of his only son.
But I sensed rehashing what had been said would do a great deal more than satisfy my curiosity. It’d hurt Bleddyn and make it even tougher for me to get along with Rhys, which was something I’d have to be doing for the foreseeable future.
No . . . knowing what had passed between Bleddyn and his father regarding me would help no one, at this moment in time. I’d just have to trust Bleddyn to be true of heart and strong enough to still love me in spite of pressure from his father. And I, for my part, would have to be careful not to sow any further discord between them, whether intentionally or not.
“You won’t start any fights or family feuds over me, will you?” I asked Bleddyn, genuinely worried because of the stubborn, determined look on his face. I cupped his cheek in my hand and leaned our foreheads together again. “Promise me you won’t say or do anything rash, or that you can’t take back. He’s your father and your superior . . . please be careful with him . . . or things could go really bad for us both.”
“You cannot expect me to stand by and let you be slandered with vile accusations and falsehoods!”
“What’s that saying you Christians love—the one about turning the other cheek?” I let my eyebrows raise fractionally, and Bleddyn blushed.
“The things he says of you are not fit for gentle ears, Karthik. If you but knew. . . .” he shook his head. “It hurts my heart to hear the one whom I love spoken of so.”
“I know, baby, I know. It would hurt me, too, to hear someone I loved speak that way of you . . . but for now, this is the way it has to be. And maybe it won’t be forever.” I tried to smile, but failed when Bleddyn sniffed. “Oh, baby, maybe he’ll come around, someday. He may never like me or that you’re sharing your life with another man, but he may come to terms with it. Learn to accept it with better grace than he’s shown so far. . . .”
Bleddyn shook his head again, and swiped at his slightly red eyes quickly. But I could see the shine of tears held back.
“He will never believe anything but the worst of me. And of you, because I love you. Nothing I do—nothing I have ever done is good enough for him,” Bleddyn said miserably, his voice cracking. “Nothing I will ever do will be good enough. He will never think well of me, or feel proud of me.”
And before he even finished speaking, I was hugging Bleddyn close, stroking his hair and hushing him.
“For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you, Bleddyn.” I closed my eyes on tears that had already leaked out. “You’re brave and smart and kind and honorable. You’re the best person I’ve ever known. My favorite person. Oh, Bleddyn . . . I wish I could make you see just how amazing you are!”
With a sob as sudden as it was completely unexpected, Bleddyn crushed me to him, his face a damp oval pressed into the crook of my neck.
I kissed his shoulder and squeezed him tight, stroking his hair once more. “My Bleddyn . . . my love . . . you are mine, now. And other people’s opinions of you don’t matter, anymore. The only opinion that matters is your own. And mine, of course, but you already know that in my unbiased opinion, you’re the most perfect and wonderful man who ever walked the Earth.”
If I wasn’t mistaken, there was actually a tiny laugh mixed in with Bleddyn’s near-silent sobbing.
“It’ll be alright, love, you’ll see,” I crooned as he shook in my arms. “Do you believe me?”
After a few minutes, in which the quiet sobs slowed to hitches and a few shakes, Bleddyn nodded, his breath shuddering out of him in warm gusts.
“Forgive me,” he whispered shakily. I leaned back in his arms and took his face in my hands. He looked wrecked, red-eyed and wet-faced. There were even tears in his mustache. I brushed them away with my thumbs.
“There’s nothing to forgive, nothing to be sorry for. You’ve done nothing wrong, Bleddyn. Do you hear me?” I gazed steadily into his heart-broken eyes. “You’ve done nothing wrong.”
Bleddyn sniffed and looked away. “I’ve sinned—I continue to sin—”
“It’s not a sin if your god made you that way. If it doesn’t hurt anyone. If it makes you happy.” I kissed the corner of Bleddyn’s mouth. “Look into your heart, Bleddyn, your strong, courageous, noble heart, and ask yourself if you’ve done wrong—wrong that warrants the treatment you’ve received from Rhys or anyone else . . . wrong that would see you damned for eternity. Have you done such a wrong or series of wrongs?”
Bleddyn met my eyes again, then his own darted away. “I—”
“You don’t have to answer me now. Or ever, if you find your answer and don’t want to say it out loud. All I ask of you, is that for now, you let me put you to bed, and leave the reporting till morning, like I said before. Its late now, probably approaching midnight. Neither your father nor Lord Owen will appreciate being dug out of the comfort of a warm bed just to hear a whole lot of nothing. Am I wrong?”
Sighing, Bleddyn shook his head no. I smiled. “I didn’t think so. Now,” I stepped back out of Bleddyn’s arms and took his hands, pulling him out of the dimly-lit stable. Sniffling, Bleddyn followed me.
And so I led him through the castle—without getting lost—back to the guestroom. I sat him on the turned-down bed and undressed him wordlessly. For each bit of clothing I removed, I kissed him: shoulders, chest, stomach, the tip of his cock, his knees, even the tops of his feet.
All the while, he watched me with sad, but wondering eyes.
When we were both naked, Bleddyn slid under the covers, making plenty of room for me. But I had something else in mind, and crowded as close to him as I could get, turning on my side, facing the door. Sooner, rather than later, he took the hint and spooned up behind me, folding me in his arms, his face buried in my hair.
“I am . . . sorry for my unmanly display,” he said softly. I laced the fingers of our right hands together. “I let myself be . . . overcome by emotions that I’ve kept back for many years.”
“Baby . . . tears aren’t enough to un-man someone. Tears aren’t a sign of weakness. They’re a sign of strength. A way of showing vulnerability to someone else. That’s not an easy thing to do. Some would say it’s the hardest thing to do.”
“Only cowards never cry, Bleddyn. And you’re anything but a coward.”
He sighed in my hair. “Your time must be a very strange one, if men go about weeping freely, where others might see them.”
I laughed. “Well, they don’t make a habit of it. But it’s not necessarily frowned upon, as long as one doesn’t cry for everything.”
Bleddyn chuckled, bringing our linked hands up to rest over my heart, the backs of his fingers grazing my nipple. “Ah, so there are limits on the respectability of one’s every behavior in 2014. . . .”
“Well.” I shivered as Bleddyn brushed the tip of his forefinger across my nipple repeatedly. “I suppose there are some. It’s not a total free-for-all.”
“Mm.” Bleddyn leaned forward and kissed my earlobe before nibbling on it. He pressed his body close, all along the back of mine. He was hard again, and I smiled, angling my head so he could kiss my neck. And he did, so lightly, it tickled, and I giggled. “Your skin, Master Karthik . . . the scent of you drives me to utter distraction.”
“Does it?” I asked innocently as he freed his hand from mine and slid it down the length of my torso, down to my cock, which he took in hand and began to stroke so slow and tight. “Too distracted to ravish me till the sun makes its first foray across the sky?”
“Never too distracted for that, ****fy nghariad,” Bleddyn rumbled, low and rough, as he pushed his knee between my legs. He let go of my cock and pulled my right leg back over his own, tracing the shell of my ear with his tongue and thrusting lazily against my ass. “Never.”
“Oh, yeah? Gonna prove it, Sweet-talker?”
Bleddyn chuckled, rather evilly. Then he was spreading me open, teasing and stretching me with first two fingers, then three. I hissed and rocked myself back onto his fingers, desperate for more, harder, and faster. And Bleddyn chuckled again. “I can promise you will likely not be ambulatory in time for church, tomorrow. How’s that for ravishment?” he murmured on my shoulder, removing his fingers from me carefully and lining up his cock with a few tantalizing brushes and inward feints.
“Fuck—sounds like a win-win, to—oh, Bleddyn!”
*Light of my heart.
**Light of my heart.
***Joy of my life.