The discomfort in his breast would not go away. What he had said to Will when he shared Morgan's confidence were words as driven on instinct as any proof. The burns on his skin felt like some sort of binding, based upon the words he had learned under Amaranth's tutelage. Baines' words spoken carelessly over his head had been half remembered until Will pulled them to the front. A vessel.
Kit knew enough of black magic to suppose what had been summoned and bound into him, what made him a weapon all might try to use—it had to be a demon of some sort.
Strange, then, how little possessed he felt, except by a raging jealously he'd no right to. All attempts to justify it—that he worried what Morgan was doing to his friend, if she were binding him as she had once bound him, despite her word—were failing. Will was his, even if someone else had the prior claim who was neither Morgan nor him.
The thoughts kept swirling round and round in his head, the guilty feeling of wanting to keep Will, of not wanting to ever let him go back to London—or worse, back to Stratford—chased after the idea of sending him home now, quickly, before this place got more of him. Dost want him to leave before you find him lost whilst still in thy bed, Kit? He shook off the question as unkind, unfair—as one's own conscience oft seemed to be—and refused to answer. Is't her you want, then, once again? That thought brushed even more cruelly for its very falsity.
Truth, for all his body found itself yearning for her, he was enough himself to know it was punishment more than solace he sought her for. It took him away from Murchaud in ways it had not before, when he had been looking for comfort. Something had shifted, in ways he did not want to examine, and solace was something he found in his Prince's arms. He still quieted things, but there was no loathing after, just continued quiet, more like that he found in Will's arms than Morgan's.
And that thought didn't bear to be dwelt upon. Not yet. Not whilst Will remained.
“Christ wept,” he muttered viciously, but still quietly, loath to draw attention to his mood by causing discomfort in the Fae milling the garden around him. The bright color of the trees sparkled around him, red and gold and orange fiery against a crisp blue sky. As in the seasons before, this autumn seemed a vision of what autumn should be: bright, crisp, colorful, with a hint of winter's chill haunting the air.
The near perfect symmetry with the emotional scope of the days pressed on Kit with an annoying irony. He'd give much for a storm to blow it all away, but storms did not happen here. Too volatile, too true. Facsimiles of weather and emotion were all that could be counted upon, but from the two mortal men caught in the brilliant net of magic and verse.
“Art brooding on the final scene?” Will's voice slid over Kit, and the colors seemed that much more real.
“What else?” he answered, turning to meet his errant love with a mask of a smile lightly brushing his lips.
“I know it worries thou, Kit, but twill come together and serve. I've faith in that.” Will reached out, brushed fingers lightly down his arm, and Kit could not move further away.
“Our first true collaboration in years, Will.” Their last, perhaps, as well, even if he could visit for brief moments. “I would have it perfect.”
“As would I,” Will said, smile still easy on his lips. “But thou art worrying needlessly. We've days yet to finish the scene. We'll see it to a proper end.”
“And then thou wilt be gone.” Kit glanced down, fingers plucking lightly at the fabric of his pants.
“Is't what you felt best.” Will's voice was a quiet reproach.
“I'd not have thou bound, my William. Thy family needst thou.”
Will's hand slid slowly up from his shoulder to ruffle through the curls that rested against the collar of Kit's doublet. “And dost not my Kit need me?”
So keenly did Will slip to the heart of the matter, the coiled serpent at the center of the tangle of Kit's thoughts. Such insight was what made him the better poet than Kit could hope to be, even given the longer span to be presumably granted him. Already, he shifted toward the Elf-Knight Morgan named him, his imminent immortality altering his view of the world and those around him. 'Twas harder to find the passion for great poetry when the days ran together in such colorful visions. That, he knew, was why the Fae found mortal poets so enchanting.
And he was no longer truly amongst their number.
Perhaps 'twas why they flocked to Will and not him. Unkind, Marley, he reproached himself. 'Twas not their—or even Morgan's—esteem he grieved the loss of, after all.
Will's question still hung there, quietly singing in the air between them. It deserved an answer; he deserved an answer, and a truthful one at that.
“Aye, Will.” Kit turned back to face him, sliding closer to him, closing the gap of chilly air between them. “Thy Kit needs thou.” Always. Forever. More than he might ever allow himself to fully admit. Already the years between now and the time that Will would be taken forever snapped as close at his heels as All Saints Day—just a handspan of time when measured against eternity.
Will watched him with those impossibly blue eyes, a depth of compassion and understanding flickering in them as they caressed his face, over his scars, to his lips
Kit's smile peeked out, irony flickering within it. “I believe I've one that most certainly needs conquering.”
The expression on Will's face was more than worth the bad pun.
* * *
Will's fingers lightly traced over the skin he had bared a few moments—hours—before. The pale scars plucked at his heart, moreso since Morgan's comments about the uses they had for Kit—and the suggestion he was too broken to hold them within himself. All these years, and until he had heard his friend—lover—crying out in his sleep, terror hoarsening his voice, he never saw those fractures dancing along his psyche.
Playful Kit, brilliant Kit, sacrilegious Kit, dangerous Kit, loyal Kit—all these faces he had seen, and now saw the masks for what they were: facets pushed toward the front, taking on legend out of proportion to hide the pieces shattered and scattered inside.
His fingers slid up over otherwise smooth skin to ghost over Kit's jaw, his lips, until he opened his eye and watched him with a glint of humor.
“I think thou left me in one piece.” Kit's voice was warm, chasing away the chill that had been there before, but Will saw the flickers of shadows still in his eye.
“Didst?” The question came before he consciously found words to frame it as anything more than the raw welling of feeling those shadows in Kit's eyes evoked.
“Aye, my love.” Kit chased his fingertips with his lips, nipping lightly and making Will shiver.
“It was not the play that hadst thou so pensive.” Not a guess, but a gut certainty.
Kit tilted his head back, and Will watched him study the draped canopy of the bed above them. “When the play is finished, 'twill be All Hallow's Eve.”
“And thou wilt miss me so much as that?”
Kit shifted in his arms, and the shadow remained in his eye as he wound himself even closer to Will, skin to skin. “Dost doubt it?”
“You've everything here.”
Kit laughed, though it lacked its usual music. “Every piece of it I would give up to return to England and be thine, sweet William.”
“What of your Prince?” Murchaud had not been much in evidence in Kit's arms these weeks last, but that searing kiss was much on Will's mind, even so. “The freedom to be as thou art without the threats which followed in thy shadow?”
“Thinkst thou no threats snap after me here? The players art different, and mayhap the stage, but the play tis always the same.”
Will frowned, though it could not help but ease, as Kit leaned in to nibble at the underside of his jaw, teeth catching skin beneath his near-clipped beard. “Wouldst have me stay, then? Despite all said before.”
The brush of Kit's lips paused, then renewed again, teasing over his skin, down to nibble at his collarbone.
“Always, my love. But I wouldst not see thee bound to my selfish desires. 'Tis not the life for thee, Will. An I could, I'd have saved thou from it, every piece.”
“And let Gloriana fall?”
Will felt more than saw Kit's wince, felt how the pressure of his lips pressed hard for a moment over his heart. “To keep thee safe from them...aye.”
For a moment, Will could not breathe, then he tangled his fingers back into Kit's hair and tugged, forcing him to look up at him.
“Never say so. I chose this, I suspect for similar reasons thou didst. No one forced me to this, and none will stay my hand.”
“And for that, as much as...thou shalt leave.”
“Aye. 'Tis in England I'm needed more...though thou shalt keep a piece of my heart, to carry into the vast realm of eternity.”
Kit's smile was crooked, tugging at the ruined side of his beautiful face. “Thy words wilt do that far better than ever I could. A man for all ages, thou art, William, my love.”
Will felt the heat rise up and knew it colored his cheeks. “Only because I strove to follow where thee hadst tread, to make thee proud.”
A shake of a head, a press of possessive lips that left Will reeling. “What a pair we are, then,” Kit murmured against his lips.
“Kit...” Will pulled back for a moment, trailing fingertips along his jaw. “Thou promises to visit, aye? As long as thy binding wilt let thee? As long as I...”
He could not say it. The tremors were less here, but he knew what time he had left, and it was not as long as he could wish, when he felt in some ways he had but only recently truly begun to live.
“Aye, my William. As often as a mayst, as long as I can.”
“'Twill not be enough,” Will said, feeling the sting of betraying Annie rise up, but softer mayhap, at least under the swell of love wrapping through and around him. “But 'twill serve...”
Kit's wicked smile flashed again, and his hands drifted lower, beneath the cover of the blanket that wrapped them, and Will gasped, arching into his touch. “No more talk of tomorrows and tomorrows,” his lover whispered against his lips, before nipping sharply at his lower lip. “We've days left to us, and tonight stretches more hours still.”
“Hast idea of how to use them?” he attempted an innocent tone as Kit's lips left his and drifted lower, following the path his fingers had traced before. “I could sharpen the quill...”
Kit's laughter was warm across his stomach. “Sweet William, I could almost believe th'art doing that on purpose...”
A flush of heat, a rueful realization of the lines he kept feeding Kit, even if he did not take them. “I did not mean...” The words broke off in a moan as Kit's fingers pressed against him intimately, as his mouth teased the tip of his cock.
“Maybe not,” Kit said, shooting him a rakish grin. “But I did.”
The shadows lengthened across the room as the too bright sun sank, but for a few moments, it seemed to Will they cleared out of the rest of the world, pushing back the storm clouds ever threatening, and gave the lovers peace.