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Here All Things in Their Place Remain

Chapter Text

Never before had his favorite chair appeared so welcome to Cedric’s eyes. He stumped toward it with single minded determination, his knees cracking with each step and an ache in his hip that had vexed him for the better part of a fortnight, born of an austere abbey bed and the two days on horseback that followed. Piety and humble reflection had their place, one he would not deny, but age and long habit had made him a creature of greater comforts, and he was keen to surround himself with them again now that his duty to the church was complete. He reached for the chair, prepared to fall into its embrace, when a quiet voice at his back halted him.

“My lord?”

Cedric turned his head to glower at Wamba over his shoulder. He stood just behind Cedric, an understanding smile on his face and his hands outstretched before him.

“What is it?” The question emerged rather more snappishly than Cedric would have liked. Wamba was not the object of his ire, but he embodied yet another comfort that had been denied to Cedric, to both of them, for too many days. There was little hope of stealing away for a tryst with his slave under the watchful eyes of an entire brotherhood of monks. Cedric had diverted that distraction to planning out the thorough bedding he intended for Wamba upon their return, but the realization of that happy vision seemed unlikely now, with his body in revolt.

Wamba was untroubled by his temper, his smile undimmed. “May I take your cloak?”

Cedric grunted, but he stood straight and undid the clasp at his throat, allowing the cloak to fall away. Light hands drew it from his shoulders. The weight of it and the stifling warmth easing from his weary body were an undeniable relief. He turned and watched Wamba fold the heavy cloth over his arm, and his irritation began to fade. Whatever else, they were home now, and free to take what comforts they would without fear of censure. Cedric need no longer pretend that Wamba was less to him than he was.

“Thank you.” He reached out and laid a hand on Wamba’s cheek, a brief caress that was equal parts gratitude and apology for his irascible nature.

The warmth in Wamba’s eyes was enough to melt the frost gathered in the corners of the windows. “Of course,” he said. “The wine will be up in a moment.”

The porters had arrived already, laden with baggage and followed by a pair of servants who began at once to unpack it. Wamba stepped away from Cedric with a dip of his head and went to join them. Cedric watched him go, as he lowered himself at last into his seat with a sigh. He had never intended to make of Wamba a manservant, but it was not in the jester’s nature to stand idle for long. Where there was work to be done, there ever was Wamba to be found. Steward and castellan, farrier and carpenter, stablemaster and swineherd, all benefited of Wamba’s labors, though perhaps none more so than she who ruled the kitchens.

It had troubled Cedric, for a time, the thought that Wamba shuttled from one task to the next for fear of what might befall him should he fail to prove himself sufficiently useful to his master. Over time, however, the urgency that drove him had receded, and Cedric thought it was more habit and a genuine affection for his fellows that kept him to his daily tour of the castle. He worked companionably with the house servants now, a few murmured words and a soft laugh floating to Cedric’s ears as they sorted out a bundle for the laundry and returned the rest to the wardrobe.

Wamba saw to his own small pack last, tucking away his cloak and a few spare belongings in the chest at the far side of the bed, while the porters gathered the empty cases and the servants carried away the soiled garments. The door closed behind them, and Wamba rose to his feet. He turned to face Cedric, the corner of his mouth lifting and one brow tipped up the barest fraction in expectant query.

Cedric looked back at him, rising amusement an odd fellow to the heat that stirred slowly in his gut. He could not rightly call Wamba a boy any longer. Though still slight, he was clearly a young man now, and one wholly ignorant of his own charms. Cedric had felt himself something of a rogue, at times, to have snatched up that beauty for himself so young, but as his eyes traced Wamba’s form, he could summon no true remorse.

He let the anticipation simmer between them for a long moment, then tilted his head with a chuckle. “Come here, then.”

Wamba’s face broke at once into a radiant smile. He took a step toward Cedric, only to be stopped short by a knock on the door.

“What now?” Cedric grumbled.

“The wine.” Wamba went to answer the knock. He exchanged a few pleasant words with the girl on the other side, though he wasted no time relieving her of her burden. Soon enough, the door closed and they were alone again. Wamba carried the tray, laden with a carafe and two goblets, across to the table. He set it down and poured out a cup to offer it to his master. Cedric's hip cracked with a sound like a dry twig trodden underfoot as he reached for it. He cursed and sat back, wine forgotten, while he waited for the pain to subside.

Wamba immediately set the goblet back on the tray, the humor in his expressing falling away. He stepped around the table, and sank to his knees at Cedric’s feet. Careful hands curved around the Saxon’s knees, long fingers laying points of gentle pressure into the muscle above. “What can I do for you?”

“There is little to be done for my advancing age,” Cedric said. “It will pass with a few nights in a proper bed.”

“I can make you comfortable, at least.” Wamba’s hands rubbed a soothing touch over Cedric’s shins before he sat back on his heels and shifted his attention to slowly working off the Saxon’s boots. “Perhaps a bath might help?”

“Too much trouble at this hour.” Cedric heaved out a sigh, laden with regret for all the things that would remain beyond him for at least one more night. He laid a hand on Wamba’s bowed head, carding his fingers gently through fair hair. “I had made plans for a more enjoyable homecoming than this.”

Wamba set Cedric’s boots off to one side, and when he looked up his smile had returned. “I know,” he said. “I could feel you plotting each time you looked at me.”

Cedric chuckled, ruffling his hair. “Are my thoughts so plain to you now?”

“Perhaps I merely imagined it,” Wamba said, one shoulder lifting in a shrug and his voice grown soft. His tongue flashed across his lower lip. “Perhaps because I was doing the same.”

The flood of heat that washed through Cedric’s loins forced a groan from his throat. His hand tightened in Wamba’s hair for just a moment, before he remembered himself and released him. “Wicked thing,” he said fondly, “do you mean to be the death of me?”

“That depends, my lord,” Wamba said, with a tilt to his lips that was wicked indeed.

Cedric’s brow lifted. “Upon what, pray tell, does it depend?”

“Upon which sort of death you mean.” Wamba rose up on his knees, his gaze searching Cedric’s as he reached out unmistakably toward the apex of his master's legs. “We need not forego our plans entirely.”

The Saxon caught his hands before they found their mark, holding them firm in his own as he stared at the jester. Wamba looked back, his expression clear and earnest. What he offered was not something that Cedric had ever asked of him, knowing full well the horror that it held for him. Yet Wamba insisted on fighting those memories, determined that Cedric should have this service of him.

Cedric allowed it, so long as it caused him no undue distress, but there were certain rules between them which must be observed. He pressed Wamba’s hands between his and said firmly, “Not without your cushion.”

Wamba nodded, and rose smoothly to his feet to go to the bed and fetch one of the smaller pillows from it. The silence grew heavy as he dropped the cushion between Cedric’s feet. He braced his hands atop Cedric’s thighs and lowered himself down between them in a sinuous curl. Cedric stroked a caress across his cheek, then let his hand settle light on the pale neck. Wamba stared up into Cedric’s eyes as he reached for his master’s laces and plucked them free. He folded the cloth away and drew Cedric out to wrap him in a tender grip, the smooth metal of his ring a cool point of contrast to the warm skin of his hand.

Cedric met his eyes with calm affection, and the same reassurance he always offered. “Only as you desire.”

He saw Wamba’s smile in a flash before the golden head bowed over his lap and a hot tongue licked a slow stripe up the underside of his cock. Cedric groaned and slumped back into his chair. One hand took a grip on the wooden arm while the other ever so gently cradled the back of Wamba’s skull. Cedric made no effort to guide him, simply rested his touch there while Wamba coaxed him to full hardness. His tongue played over the head and darted against the sensitive slit, almost curious in its explorations, and Cedric could only hope, through the gathering fog of arousal, that he was not making a comparison between Cedric and his past experiences.

Then that thought slipped from the increasingly lax grip of his mind, as Wamba took a deep breath and closed his mouth around Cedric’s girth. He held there for a moment, letting Cedric’s flesh rest on his tongue, before he began to slide down in slow pulses that took his master gradually deeper each time, until Cedric felt the back of Wamba’s throat tight around him. Wamba choked, and Cedric looked down at him, alert to the first signs of discomfort. His eyes were tightly shut, fine lashes resting on pinked cheeks and the hair beneath Cedric’s hand beginning to dampen, but he quickly found his rhythm again, shallower for a few moments before he forced himself to swallow Cedric down.

He managed it, his nose bumping against Cedric’s skin for a handful of strokes, near enough to drag him over, until a tear slipped from the corner of Wamba’s eye. Cedric immediately took a firmer grip on him to push him away. “Stop.”

Wamba released him, gasping in a heaving breath as he withdrew. He rested his brow against Cedric’s thigh and swiped at the damning trail of moisture on his cheek, panting into the fabric of the Saxon’s trousers as a dark flush of shame rose on his face.

Cedric threaded his fingers into Wamba’s hair again, petting him gently. “You’ve done so well. Take your time.”

Wamba stayed where he was, hiding his face from Cedric until his breathing calmed. Then his eyes opened, reddened but resolute, and he knelt up to take to his task again. Cedric did not question him, only leaned back and let him do as he would. The warm, wet mouth that enveloped him was equally determined, sucking at him with purpose. In the face of such an onslaught, Cedric could only surrender. A rumble built deep in his throat, rising up and out of his mouth in a roar as his pleasure peaked. Wamba persisted through it, drinking down everything Cedric had to give him and easing him through the lingering waves.

He was still there when Cedric finally found the strength to open his eyes. The Saxon reached for Wamba at once, sweat soaked and exhausted by the effort, but with a peaceful satisfaction in his expression that nearly broke Cedric with the force of love it sent pulsing through him.

“What a treasure you are,” he said, low and hoarse. His hands cradled Wamba’s face as he drew the young man up to him and covered the swollen mouth with his own.

Wamba met him without hesitation, lips parted and yearning for Cedric’s kiss. The Saxon gave it to him, delving into the soft mouth and tasting the bitter salt of his own seed. Wamba’s arms reached up for him, twining around his shoulders. Cedric pulled him closer, caressing his lean flanks and the sweet arch of his spine. He kissed Wamba until he tasted like himself again, and by the time he had finished, a hard line of throbbing heat was trapped between their bellies. Delighted, Cedric tugged Wamba up and off of the floor.

He did not fit so neatly into Cedric’s lap as he once had, but his weight astride Cedric’s thigh was warm and perfect. He was still fully clothed, even his boots upon his feet, and while Cedric would have preferred him in nothing but his skin, he would not force Wamba to wait any longer, not after such a gift as he had just given Cedric.

The Saxon contented himself instead with tugging away Wamba’s belt and sliding a greedy hand up over the hot skin of his back. His other tore open Wamba’s trousers and seized him in a sure grip. Wamba’s mouth broke from his on a gasp. His arms tightened around Cedric and he pressed his face to his master’s shoulder, muffling faint whimpers against his body as Cedric stroked him. The Saxon was well practiced in this now. A thumb teasing just so, a well-timed twist, had narrow hips jumping up toward him. It was a matter of moments to have Wamba trembling on the edge.

“Love you,” he whispered into Cedric’s neck. “Want you.”

“Tomorrow,” Cedric promised him, turning his face to press kisses against Wamba’s flushed cheek. “Tomorrow I shall have you in all the ways you have dreamed, until the only word you can remember is my name.”

That tore a moan from Wamba, loud and sudden as the pulses of heat that spilled over Cedric’s hand as Wamba’s climax ripped through him. His whole body shuddered, hanging on that pleasure for one long moment. Then he collapsed against Cedric, his chest heaving and his arms hanging limp over the Saxon's shoulders. Cedric hitched him closer and wrapped both arms around his spent form while Wamba murmured contented nonsense into his neck.

It was several long minutes before he found the strength to shift himself, bracing his hands against the back of the chair to push himself up. The lopsided smile he gifted Cedric was hazy and impossible not to kiss. So Cedric did, taking him by the chin to hold him firm as he swayed. Wamba hummed a laugh into his mouth.

“What is it that amuses you so?” Cedric asked him.

“I merely wondered whether you would like to reconsider the question of a bath."

Cedric took stock of their disheveled state, the mess of their tangled and soiled garments, and had to admit there was sense to Wamba’s suggestion.

“Only if you will share it with me," he decided.

Wamba smiled, sweet and adoring, and in that moment Cedric wanted nothing more than to always see such peace in him.

“As you wish, my lord."

Chapter Text

“She lost the child, my lord.”

The words tumbled over and over in Cedric’s ears, and for one long, confounded moment he could make no sense of them.

She lost the child, my lord.

Meaning took shape slowly, a leaden weight that swelled and sank within him, stirring bitter spiral of deepening agony as it went.

She lost the child.

He reached out blindly with one hand, grasping for something solid to steady him. He found his chair, and let his body fall down into it just as the strength left his legs.

The child.

He had known how it would end, with certain, sickening dread, since the first scream echoed through the keep hours before. It was far too early for a birth. Rowena’s belly was hardly swollen yet. There was never any true hope for the babe after that moment, but some part of him must have kept faith, for the news to cause such despair upon its hearing.

“Are you well, my lord?” The young handmaid peered at him with guileless blue eyes. He did not know her name, but he could no longer bear her presence.

“Leave me,” he ground out.

The girl’s lashes fluttered in surprise. “My lord?”

“Leave!” Cedric barked, slamming his fist down upon the arm of his chair. He turned his fiercest scowl upon her. “And make it known that I am not to be disturbed.”

She cowered away from his wrath, scurrying to make a quick retreat with barely a pause spared for a curtsy. An icy breath of air gusted into the chamber as the door swung open, bearing upon it the pitiful feminine wailing that echoed through the corridor beyond. Cedric’s heart clenched and fluttered like a bird trapped within his chest. He closed his eyes and ground his teeth against one another until the door closed and that awful sound was dimmed.

Then he tipped his face into his hand and sought desperately to find some sense in this new tragedy. Rowena was dutiful to her husband, for all she had ever been defiant of her guardian, and devout in her observations. What wrong she had committed to earn such repeated heartbreak Cedric could not fathom. Except, perhaps, that it was one more manifestation of the curse upon his own house, doomed to fade into obscurity in an England that had no more use for the relics of its past.

The creak of the door on its hinges disturbed his thoughts, igniting his welling sorrow into a sudden rage. He did not raise his eyes as he snarled, “I gave orders I was not to be disturbed.”

“Forgive me, my lord,” a subdued voice murmured, very different from that of the fled handmaid. Cedric’s eyes flew open in time to see the door swinging slowly back toward its mate.

“Wait,” he called, short and sharp. “Come inside.”

The door paused, wavering for an uncertain moment. Then it opened again, and Wamba slipped through the narrow gap. He kept his eyes lowered as he closed the door quietly behind him. Then he turned and Cedric saw him clearly. His face was ashen, and tears stood in his eyes.

“You’ve heard, then,” Cedric said, suddenly unspeakably weary.

“We have all heard.” Wamba approached Cedric on quiet feet, every word and gesture slow with caution. He need not have troubled himself. The mere sight of him was an immediate balm to Cedric, for all his pride would scarce have allowed him to ask for it.

“And what have the servants made of the news?”

“They grieve,” Wamba said, coming to a stop just before him. His dark eyes met Cedric’s, a mirror of the sorrow that hung heavy on Cedric’s own soul. “Your people share this pain with you, and with your family.”

“Little enough family to speak of now,” Cedric said, choking on that bitter truth despite himself. “I have hardly a house left to call such.”

“Your house is great, my lord,” Wamba said, quiet but earnest, and his gaze did not waver from Cedric’s, “rich in honor and in noble reputation.”

Cedric snorted. “And poor in heirs.”

Wamba’s hands lifted, then fell, his face twisted in helpless pain that was unbearable for Cedric to witness, doubled upon his own. Cedric reached for him then, pulling him close until he could close his arms about the young man’s waist and rest his brow against his narrow chest. Wamba hesitated for only a single heartbeat before his fingers brushed through Cedric’s hair, his arms a warm weight on Cedric’s shoulders as careful hands cradled his master’s head.

To his own horror it was there, safe in that privacy, that Cedric could no longer fight back the bleak thought that plagued him, its claws grown sharper with each babe that was stolen before it had seen the light of day.

“What if this is the end of my line?”

Wamba stilled, and a brief ripple of doubt shuddered through Cedric. He was not in the habit of making Wamba privy to such personal counsel, could scarcely believe he had spoken those desolate words, but the simple truth was that there was no longer any other to whom Cedric could reveal such a private doubt. No other he would dare trust with his pain.

He felt Wamba’s slow indrawn breath, the pulse of his soft voice as he said, “I cannot believe that such a virtuous love as theirs would be fruitless.”

“This is the third time,” Cedric reminded him. He added, bitterly, “It seems the land itself rejects good Saxon blood.”

“Then your legacy will be your deeds,” Wamba said evenly, “and those of your noble son.”

“A pale comfort indeed,” Cedric sighed, closing his eyes again as he rolled his brow against Wamba’s tunic. “What memory will remain of me in an England so wholly transformed?”

“The name you have made for your house and the good you have done for England’s most vulnerable are no small things. You will not be so easily forgotten.”

Cedric’s eyes were growing hot, and he tightened his arms about Wamba, pressing the young man closer to him. “Such faith you have in me still, when I have done you the gravest wrongs of any other.”

That was a guilt entirely its own, one shade of the many regrets that Cedric had found with the unclouded sight of an aging man looking back upon his past deeds.

“You did not wrong me, my lord,” Wamba said, holding Cedric more firmly in return.

“How easily you forgive.”

It was nearly unfathomable to Cedric now, how carelessly he had once inflicted heartless brutalities on Wamba, how he could have chosen to surrender Wamba to the mercy of Rotherwood’s enemies for his own ends. It was a gnawing shame, dwelt upon in quiet hours as Cedric traced the many the scars laced across Wamba’s skin, or watched tears dry on his sleeping face in the wake of yet another nightmare.

“You did not wrong me,” Wamba said again. “Far from it. You kept me, even after I continued to defy you as I did. Still you kept me.”

“Only after I drove you to the brink of madness. How many times did I lay the penalty on you when you did not deserve it?”

“I deserved it, my lord,” Wamba said, low and calm. “I disobeyed you.”

“You could hardly have refused Wilfred the things he asked of you,” Cedric said. “I knew that even then. How many times?”

Wamba did not answer him, though by the quality of his silence Cedric was certain he knew that number. He shifted in Cedric’s arms in what was perhaps a shrug. “I knew why. Every time. That is worth more than you might think. It was certainly more than I ever had before.”

He did not speak Galen’s name, but he did not need to. He pressed his cheek to the crown of Cedric’s head.

“You gave me a home,” he said quietly. “A place to be safe. To belong. That is something I never dreamed I would have. It is well worth everything that came before.”

Cedric’s heart swelled within him, marveling anew at the strength in that slender body.

“Do you love me, Wamba?”

“I do.”

Cedric knew that those words should not bring him such comfort as they did. The love of a slave was to be expected, after all, something owed to his master and never in question. Those were the lessons he had learned at his father’s knee. Yet Wamba’s love was precious to him in ways he could not fully put into words. Given without reserve, deep and steady as a great river, rarely did he feel worthy of it. Right or wrong, he strove now to be the man Wamba believed him to be.

Words crowded his mouth, perched on the tip of his tongue, the words that would free Wamba and allow Cedric to discover whether that love would still be his should those bonds be lifted. Whether Wamba could love him as a man as well as a master.

Wamba spoke before he could. “You are a good and just lord. Your people know it. That is why they love you as they do, and grieve with you for this loss. That is why they will rejoice with you when your grandchild is born at last.”

Cedric swallowed the words back down into his throat, forcing out a choked laugh instead. “How wise you have grown.”

Wamba’s chest shook in a weak answering chuckle. “Perhaps you are more accustomed to hearing my counsel as jest.”

He stepped back from Cedric’s arms, and the Saxon fisted a hand in his tunic to stall the retreat, but Wamba moved only far enough that he could tip up his master’s face with gentle hands a place a soft kiss upon his lips.

“Will you come to bed, my lord?”

It was not an enticement, merely a question, an offer of comfort sorely needed. Yet Cedric realized he had neglected his duty to the one whose hurt was greatest as he wallowed in his own maudlin thoughts.

“Should I console her?” he asked Wamba.

“William is with her,” Wamba said, "and her ladies. I heard that Lord Wilfred will return tomorrow. There is no more to be done tonight.”

So Wamba protected him even now, absolved him of any guilt in seeking his own peace.

“And will you stay with me?” Cedric asked him gruffly.

“Of course, my lord.” Wamba's smile was small and sad, honest. “Of course I will.”

Chapter Text

The fire had dwindled over the course of the slow twilight hours. Cedric did not call a servant to relay it. The chamber was cool and dim, but the twin candles that burned at the bedside offered just enough light to read by as he worked his way steadily through the collection of reports and letters delivered to him that evening. He laid one scroll aside and pried open the crimson seal on the next folded missive, flattening it gracelessly with one hand before he lifted it to the light.

His other hand was engaged rubbing slow circles into the back of Wamba’s neck, sifting the fine hairs at his nape as it went. The jester drowsed with his head pillowed on Cedric’s thigh, sprawled out loose and lazy, as his healing baths were wont to leave him. Cedric was fond of cosseting him in this state, delighting in the rare unguarded moments when he was willing to soak in the Saxon’s affectionate touches without concerning himself for what he owed his master in return. Wamba’s mouth was soft, his unfocused eyes gazing out toward the lowering fire as he resisted the pull of slumber to prolong that peaceful intimacy.

It was Cedric who disturbed it, with a surprised grunt as he read what the letter contained. Wamba blinked and stirred, tilting his head to direct an inquisitive glance at Cedric from one lidded eye.

The Saxon smiled to assure him that the news was not ill, and brushed his hair back from his brow. “It seems we shall be obliged to travel to York.”

“Why is that, my lord?” Wamba returned the smile before he turned his face into Cedric’s thigh again, baring his nape in an unmistakable invitation for Cedric to resume his petting.

Cedric indulged him as he explained. “By this letter, I am informed that Ealdred plans to marry. He wishes me to be present among his witnesses.”

Wamba made a thoughtful sound, nuzzling his cheek briefly against Cedric’s leg. “Does Lord Ealdred not have a family already? I have a clear recollection of the drubbing his son took from yours at the king’s tournament this year.”

“You are correct,” Cedric said, “but Ealdred’s wife passed some years ago, when their children were still young. I had thought him resigned to end his days a widower. We were close companions for a time, just after Winifred passed on and took Wilfred’s brother with her. I saw her death as a sign that I was meant to be done with marriage. At that time, he shared my sentiment.”

Wamba’s smile had fallen away. He was very still, listening to Cedric speak of his departed wife. The Saxon still remembered her fondly, the spirited playmate of his childhood who grew into the graceful beauty who stole his youthful heart. The pain of her loss was distant now, felt most keenly when he looked upon their son. Wilfred had hardly known her, but her stamp on him was undeniable, as much in his noble features as in the stubborn idealism that drove his actions. Wamba had never known her at all, though he tread carefully around her memory, silent even now as he rested in the space where she had once lain.

Cedric banished the weight that seemed to have fallen over them with a chuckle, giving Wamba’s nape a rough squeeze. “Perhaps he has grown lonely in his advancing age. He has gone to the trouble of petitioning the church for permission to take a new bride, and convincing Grenwald to part with one of his daughters for the cause. Though what sort of companion he hopes to make of a young girl barely into her womanhood, I cannot imagine.”

He realized what mockery he had courted by this thoughtless declaration, even as a slow grin curled the corner of Wamba’s mouth. “It is sure to be a test of the highest order indeed."

“Is that so?” Cedric was far too accustomed to his caustic wit to be fooled by the pleasant tone. He waited for the inevitable barb with narrowed eyes.

“I have no doubt it will be most trying," Wamba said agreeably, "for the bride.”

Cedric snorted, unable to entirely banish the fondness from his expression as he affected a stern glare. “You malign a noble man and suggest that our sympathies should be with she who will be graced with titles and authority? She who will now almost certainly have wealth enough to live out her days in comfort?”

Wamba opened his eyes and smiled up at Cedric, inviting him to share in his languid amusement. “I am sure that Lord Ealdred has many fine qualities. Yet it is commonly known that men of a certain age, while endowed with great wisdom, are possessed of somewhat less fortitude in certain pursuits than their younger fellows.”

It was an obvious taunt, but by Cedric’s estimation no more comeuppance than he deserved for his thoughtless comment on the young. As ever, Wamba’s words were impeccably calculated to their purpose. Cedric pressed the heel of his hand into the highest notch of Wamba’s spine and dragged it down his skin in a long, hard stroke. Wamba’s back arched at its passage, lean body lengthening and a hum in his throat that was decidedly a purr.

“And how is it that you speak with such authority on this matter?” Cedric asked. “Would you claim that I have in some way left you unsatisfied?”

Wamba’s eyes danced and his smile was sweet with mischief as he said, “Never will you hear me say as much.”

“So you suffer in silence, then?

It was easy to share in the jest, falling into the familiar banter of their play. If there were any honest truth to the brazen insinuation, Wamba would never have made it. Cedric was secure in his confidence that he never failed to satisfy his young lover. Despite the many years that divided them, that gulf had proved no true hindrance to understanding. For though Wamba was young, he was not unworldly. He had been party and witness to more in his short life than men many years his senior, to say nothing of sheltered noble maidens. It was not with a young man’s lust that he approached Cedric, seeking bodily satisfaction. His desire was bound up ever in emotion, a craving for his master’s possession, his approval and affection, and by consequence the pleasure of his intimate touch.

Cedric clasped his neck in a firm grip and bent down to growl into his ear, “Do you expect me to let such a grave insult to my honor pass without consequence?”

He gathered the letters strewn across his lap to cast them hastily aside, careless of those that slid away and fluttered to the floor. His attention was all for Wamba now, as he reached down to take a firmer hold on him and haul him out from beneath the blankets. He bent his legs, raising his knees to catch the bare body just at the hips as Cedric draped Wamba over them.

Wamba made a soft sound of surprise, but Cedric did not pause as he positioned the young man where he wanted him. Wamba caught himself on his hands, braced to either side of Cedric’s feet, while Cedric guided his near leg over the Saxon’s own, putting his rump at a perfect height to be admired.

“My lord?” Wamba asked, a hint of nervous question putting a tremor in his voice.

“Hush,” Cedric commanded him. “You brought this upon yourself.”

He belied the stern words with a gentle caress down Wamba’s slender thigh that settled in a firm clasp just above his knee, reassuring him that it was all but a part of their game. If Wamba was afraid or unwilling, he had only to say it. It was a careful balance Cedric struck, but one that allowed him to occasionally gift Wamba pleasures that he would otherwise never admit to wanting.

Wamba subsided now, hiding his face against Cedric’s shin as his hand crept up to grasp his master’s ankle. Satisfied with his acquiescence, Cedric rewarded him with a gentle kiss to the upturned rump poised so conveniently before him. It was worthy of close study, with its two neat little pillows that fit so pleasingly into his palms. Cedric kneaded them gently, stretching the thin skin between, while Wamba whimpered into the weave of his master’s trousers. Cedric traced one thumb along the narrow valley, brushing across the furled nub of Wamba’s hole, which twitched beneath his touch.

Even here he bore scars. Perhaps especially here, though not all were visible to the eye. Cedric stroked him gently, teasing up and down the sensitive little strip of skin before he pressed the blunt point of his thumb into the center of Wamba’s hole, pressing and teasing with a light touch. Wamba’s breath came short, amusement wholly banished by the rival forces of shame and want that brought a burning flush to his cheeks as they clashed within him.

Still, he asked no mercy, so Cedric bent his head low and buried his face deep in the crux of Wamba’s legs to stretch out his tongue and lick a long, slow line from that shadowed hollow up over his hole and all the way to his tailbone. Wamba’s whole body shuddered with his low moan. Cedric caressed his lean flanks as he repeated the stroke twice more, then returned to trace the furrows and ridges of his rim with the tip of his tongue.

Wamba was thoroughly undone by just that first short exploration, his body collapsed limp over Cedric’s knees and his voice faded to high, soft whimpers. His hand clenched spasmodically on Cedric’s ankle. The Saxon thought to tease him for how quickly he disproved his slanderous insinuations, but Wamba was in no state to make any sort of repartee, and it would be a shame to force him from his haze of pleasure when Cedric could instead focus his energies on driving Wamba deeper still.

To that end, he firmed his tongue to a soft point and pressed it to the center of Wamba’s heat, forcing his way gently past the resistance and into the jester’s body. Cedric’s nose bumped against the knot of bone at the base of Wamba’s spine, and his senses were abruptly filled with the clean musk of the youthful body. Wamba made a strangled noise, one that Cedric might have said was his name, if only he could hear it properly over the pounding of his own blood in his ears.

He withdrew his tongue, only to drive it in again, just a little bit deeper than before. Stroke by stroke, he coaxed Wamba open that way, his own hot breath bursting back across his cheeks with every panted exhale and his arousal throbbing hungry and urgent in his groin. So engrossed was he in this painstaking task that when Wamba’s voice finally managed to reach him, it was tight and hoarse, chanting one word over and over again.

“Please. Please. Please.”

Cedric finally leaned back, taking in the sight of what he had wrought with lust and pride boiling within him in nearly equal measure. Wamba’s hole was soft and shining slick, fluttering and clenching on nothing. His hips rocked in short, helpless motions that were useless to grant any relief to the painful arousal dangling untouched between Cedric’s knees. His bollocks were drawn up tight and his cock wept a thin line of milky seed onto the blanket below. He was practically sobbing with frustrated desire.

“Are you ready for me?” Cedric pressed his thumb into the wanting body with a deliberate twist.

“Yes! Please!” Wamba cried, trying to push himself back against Cedric with what strength remained in his arms. “Please.”

Cedric reached quickly for the small pot at the bedside, sending more parchment to the floor in his haste. He paid it no mind, intent on tearing his trousers away far enough to bare his rampant cock and coat it in slick oil. Wamba wriggled back toward him, trapped as he was on the peak of Cedric’s knees. The Saxon lifted him up by the hips and dropped him down atop his cock in one decisive motion, impaling him without pause or ceremony.

Wamba howled, head thrown back and hands clawing at Cedric’s knees. Cedric growled with the intensity of his pleasure, and bit at the curve of Wamba’s ear as he commanded, “That's right. Let me hear you.”

He lifted Wamba up by bodily force and slammed him down again, wresting another strangled cry from his throat. Cedric knew the sound would echo in the corridor, perhaps even farther than that, but he did not care. His appetite for that proof of Wamba’s gratification was insatiable, the sounds that even torture could not wring from him delivered instead with merciless pleasure.

Wamba braced his hands on Cedric’s knees, muscles straining as he strove to match his master’s relentless pace. He fought to find purchase, as Cedric drove into him again and again, taking deliberate aim at those places that would render him helpless with pleasure. It was a distraction Cedric did want, so he grasped Wamba’s hips and pulled him off of his cock. They parted with a filthy wet sound.

“No!” Wamba wailed. He twisted in Cedric’s arms, grasping for him. Cedric was faster. He threw Wamba over and down onto his back on the bedding, then sprang after him like a wolf to the kill, aligning them and slamming back inside of him in one quick thrust.

Given what he wanted, Wamba locked his legs about Cedric’s waist and his arms around Cedric’s shoulders, relinquishing all semblance of reciprocation as he surrendered to the pleasure Cedric saw fit to drive into him with the relentless motion of his hips. Cedric growled with satisfaction and sank his teeth into Wamba’s throat, just hard enough to mark him without doing real harm.

Wamba cried out, his body seizing and shuddering as his climax took him. Cedric was just moments behind, shoving deep into Wamba to pump hot seed into the core of him, perhaps to leave a mark upon him that could never be erased.

When reason returned to Cedric, he was poised still above Wamba, his cock still nestled warm inside the comfortable sheath of his body. Gentle hands carded through Cedric’s hair, and a soft hum of contentment throbbed in Wamba’s chest.

Cedric propped himself up on his arms, dislodging Wamba’s stroking hands as he fixed him with a narrow look. “I trust you will you think twice before impugning my honor again.”

Wamba laughed, his cheeks flushed and his lopsided grin warm and sweet as he gazed up at his master. “If you meant to correct me by these methods, I must regretfully report that I am entirely unreformed.”

Cedric’s lip quirked, but he smothered his smile against Wamba’s mouth instead, bending down to claim a kiss from him, the first they had shared that night. Wamba’s lips were already parted, his mouth soft and clumsy with satisfaction as he leaned up into Cedric’s gentle claiming.

“As ever,” Cedric said when they parted, “you are too impertinent for your own good.”

Wamba licked his lips and let his head drop to the bed, regarding him with a lazy smirk and one raised brow. “Would you have me meek and fawning, my lord?”

“No.” Cedric shook his head and dropped a soft peck against the corner of Wamba’s mouth. “I would have you thus. Always just as you are.”

Wamba tilted his head to catch Cedric’s lips to his own again, enticing him back into a true kiss. Cedric followed, pleased to give to Wamba every thing the young man would ask of him. He did not envy Ealdred his maiden bride. He would attend the wedding, and wish his friend all happiness in this new union, knowing all the while that it could never match what Cedric already had.