“Enjoying cooking?” Osferth asked, as he caught Finan toiling away in the kitchen on his own.
Finan gave a non-committal grunt. Sihtric had excused himself earlier with a mumbled excuse and a kiss, so it was up to Finan to cook the evening meal for the seven of them. Osferth had come in not with the intention of helping, but of stealing a handful of berries. And to torment Finan, of course.
“I knew all along.” Osferth said, popping a berry in his mouth and looking annoyingly smug.
“Did not.” Finan said reflexively, then added: “knew what exactly?”
“Knew about you. And your feelings for Sihtric.”
“Lucky guess is all.” Finan said. “You couldn’t have known. I didn’t know.”
“No, I knew.” Osferth nonchalantly ate another berry. “I could see it.”
“Now that’s a very pagan thing for a monk to be saying.” Finan told him. “Claiming to see things that aren’t there.”
Osferth leant in close, and Finan braced himself for some earth shattering revelation. Honestly, at this point if Osferth told him he could predict the future or read minds he’d be halfway inclined to agree with him: Osferth’s general demeanour was far too calm and collected to allow him to travel with Uhtred all these years without some dark secret, surely. Instead, just as Finan was tensing for what was about to come, Osferth simply said:
“I look forward to that shoulder massage.”
The monk pulled away and smiled, walking out of the kitchen to do God knows what. Finan instinctively reached for the cross around his neck, then stopped himself- he was being foolish. Osferth had just made a lucky guess. One lucky guess. Years ago. It didn’t mean a thing.
“It wasn’t a guess.” Osferth called from outside the kitchen. Finan crossed himself.
Realising he had cared for Sihtric as more than a friend had led to a rush of new, supplementary feelings that Finan supposed he had subconsciously been stoppering up all this time. His heart now stopped whenever the other man looked at him, for example, and seemingly the most important thing he could do was make Sihtric laugh. It was no longer a bore to sit and wait around for Uhtred and Aethelflaed to return, and Finan found himself starting to enjoy their weird moment of domesticity.
The other feelings that had been awakened in him were trickier to navigate in an estate full of children. Namely, he could now no longer look at Sihtric without wanting to drag him into the nearest secluded spot and take his clothes off. Which, admittedly, he’d got very good at doing in a relatively short period of time. They had to take their moments where they could, and God knows things would only get worse once they finally set back on the road to Coccham. Best to get it all out of his system now. Literally.
“Found you.” Finan poked his head round the corner of the stables, where Sihtric was crouching in the shadows behind one of the horses. Sihtric put a finger to his lips, and silently gestured for Finan to join him. Finan squeezed his way past a very disgruntled horse to huddle down in Sihtric’s corner.
“You’re not the one who was supposed to be looking for me.” Sihtric said softly when Finan was safely out of sight to any children passing by.
“Does that mean I don’t get a reward for finding you?” Finan reached out to cup Sihtric’s face in his hand, stroking his cheek. He couldn’t help himself. Even in the shadows of the stables, surrounded by the smell of horses, he wanted him. Sihtric took Finan’s hand from his face, pressing a kiss into Finan’s palm before gently brushing his hand away.
“I will reward you later, if you wish.”
“But I’m here now.” Finan said. Sihtric simply shook his head, a slight grin playing on his lips.
Deciding he would have to show rather than tell Sihtric how much he wanted to have his way with him, Finan leaned in to mouth along Sihtric’s jawline before delicately nipping his earlobe between his teeth, a surefire way to get Sihtric warmed up. On cue, he felt Sihtric tense beneath him, and Finan set to work sucking marks into his neck, relishing the noises Sihtric tried to muffle.
“The children are looking for me.” He protested, hands coming up to rest on Finan’s waist as if to push him away, but staying there instead.
“Let’s hope they don’t find you then.” Finan placed a kiss on Sihtric’s lips, then another, trying to coax a response out of him. Sihtric was very resolutely not giving in, though Finan could tell by the way his hands tightened their grip on his waist that he wanted to. “We’ll be fast.” He promised, slowly running his hands down Sihtric’s chest.
“Finan.” Sihtric’s tone carried a warning as he finally mustered the strength of will to stop Finan’s hands from wandering downwards. “I will come to you when the game is over.”
Finan sighed. “Alright.” He stood up and brushed some errant strands of hay from his shirt. “But I still want my reward.”
“After.” Sihtric promised, sinking back further into his corner.
It was scary how well he managed to make himself blend in with the shadows. And oddly attractive. Finan lingered, for a moment, admiring his man, until the same horse he’d pushed past to get in nudged him back out of the stables, with more than a little force. It was Osferth’s horse, Finan realised. Of course it was.
When Finan returned to the main hall he found Aelfwynn checking inside the large chest by the main door. She looked almost in danger of falling in as she peered down to the bottom to see if anyone was hiding there, and Finan readied himself to pull her back should she topple. Not that a fall into the chest would hurt her, particularly, but her fair skin looked like it would bruise awfully easily, and Finan wanted to avoid Aethelflaed’s wrath if possible. If only because Aethelflaed’s displeasure would also mean Uhtred’s.
“You might want to try the stables.” Finan remarked as he watched.
“Thank you!” Aelfwynn slammed the lid of the chest shut and went racing off out of the hall with barely a backwards glance. Finan managed to find Aethelstan searching under the tables in the next room and offered him the same advice. Best to double his chances of getting Sihtric back to their bedroom sooner.
“That’s cheating.” Stiorra reproached him from her seat by the window.
“And what of it?” Finan grinned at her.
“They’ll never learn if you just give them everything.”
“Yes, mother.” Finan teased, then promptly fled when Stiorra looked like she was searching for something to throw. Aethelflaed’s candlesticks looked heavy.
Children all seen to, Finan happily made his way back to what was now his and Sihtric’s bedroom: Osferth had relinquished any claim to it, rightly deciding that he’d prefer a hard floor as a bed than the risk and shame that would come from Finan and Sihtric humping in the main room of the hall. Someone had to think of the children. And Aethelflaed’s honour. Finan would have felt guiltier if he wasn’t now cooking nearly every day for their little family. Young Uhtred ate just as much as his father, despite only being half his size, and cooking that much food took more time than Finan cared for. It didn’t help that Sihtric was, as he’d said, a terrible cook. Uhtred’s proclivity for fire had clearly passed on to the younger man, as Sihtric’s attempts at cooking more often than not ended up thoroughly charred.
Finan made sure to close the shutters on the window before dropping down onto the bed. He’d barely got his boots off when Sihtric joined him.
“Oh no, did you get caught? I suppose it wasn’t the best of hiding places.” Finan didn’t even try to sound sincere.
“You need to learn some patience.” Sihtric told him, closing the door and leaning against the wall. That wasn’t right- he should be on the bed, Finan thought, and beckoned him over.
“Patience is overrated.”
Sihtric shook his head, slowly walking towards where Finan sat on the edge of the bed. He crawled up onto the bed, legs on either side of Finan, forcing him to move backwards until his back was against the headboard. Sihtric sank down on his knees so they could kiss, combing one hand through Finan’s hair. It was a much better kiss than the one Finan had tried to initiate in the stables, and Finan groaned as Sihtric forced his tongue into his mouth. Sihtric’s other hand, Finan was pleased to notice, was already undoing the ties of his trousers.
“Is that my reward for finding you?” Finan asked as Sihtric pulled his cock out, slowly stroking it into hardness.
“It is.” Sihtric knelt up, bringing his cock into perfect alignment with Finan’s mouth, though rather disappointingly a good few inches away.
Finan ran his hands up Sihtric’s thighs, coming to rest on his arse. He used his new handhold to urge Sihtric towards him, and flicked out his tongue to lick the tip of his cock, before slowly taking the head into his mouth. God, he’d never much cared for other men’s cocks before, but Sihtric’s was something else. The smoothness of the skin, the weight of it on his tongue was nothing short of perfection. Finan had become accustomed to the taste of both Sihtric’s cock and his come, and sucked hard, trying to coax the first bit of precome out.
He was by no means an expert, but he had always been a quick study, and had soon learnt what to do to get Sihtric to fall apart in his mouth. Sihtric was beginning to lose himself, his hips shallowly thrusting forward, almost causing Finan to gag as Sihtric’s cock was forced deeper down his throat. Finan forced himself to relax, but moved his hands to steady Sihtric’s hips and hold him in place. It wasn’t much later that Sihtric shuddered, his cock pulsing in Finan’s mouth. Finan swallowed, and coughed, then licked the last drops from the tip of Sihtric’s cock for good measure.
Sihtric dropped backwards to slouch on the bed, idly tucking himself back into his trousers. Finan graciously gave him a moment to recover before not so subtly palming his own hardness through his trousers. Sihtric noticed, and with a low chuckle leaned forward to mouth at Finan’s cock through the material, grazing his shaft with his teeth. Just as Finan reached for his laces though, Sihtric batted his hands away.
“You’ve had your reward. Now you need to learn your lesson.”
“Sihtric, come on, you can’t leave me like this.” Finan begged. It was damned rude for one, and besides, he was plenty patient. Hadn’t he left Sihtric to continue playing his game, instead of taking him there and then?
“Finish, if you want. Or don’t. But if you want my mouth you’ll wait until night.” Sihtric had a devilish glint in his eye, that both infuriated Finan and made him even harder.
“You’re going to hell.” Finan told him, fingers itching to grab hold of his cock and finish the damn job. But he couldn’t give Sihtric the satisfaction. Wouldn’t let him win.
“I’ll see you there then.” Sihtric replied as he left Finan alone in their bedroom, trying desperately to will his cock back into submission.
“You and Sihtric- how does that work?” Stiorra asked as they walked the horse along to the village for supplies a few days later. Finan had planned to go on his own, and Stiorra had never asked if she could come along with him, yet here she was. Finan hadn’t minded at the start: she’d wanted to hear more stories about Uhtred, but her new line of questioning was more than a little uncomfortable.
Lord give him strength.
“I do not want to discuss that with you, and your father wouldn’t thank me for it either.” Finan said sternly. Stiorra looked horrified.
“Not that. I meant… life. Can you get married? Does it not bother you he’s a Dane? What about children? Will father mind?”
“That’s an awful lot of questions coming out of one so small.”
Stiorra aimed a kick at his shin. Finan felt like he was getting a lot of abuse these days, just when he’d thought the fighting was over.
“You can’t hit everything that displeases you.” He told her, before bumping into her shoulder and forcing her off the path into the field.
“Hey!” Stiorra charged back at him, and he staggered into the poor horse, laughing. The horse, disgruntled, butted him back.
“Alright alright. Truce.” He held up his hands. Stiorra grinned and agreed to the peace. The horse did not.
“You didn’t answer my questions.” Stiorra reminded him, as they continued to trudge along.
Finan sighed. “I don’t know how it’s going to work, honestly. Maybe things will change when we get back to Coccham, I don’t know.” As much as he missed the excitement of having more purpose to his life than making sure a load of children didn’t injure themselves, the laid back domesticity was perfect for his and Sihtric’s relationship to grow. Judging by the last week or so he was by no means ready to become a full-time father just yet, nor did he want to give up adventuring with Uhtred to start a family, but Sihtric was definitely good with children. And if they started with a baby, one he could raise to not kick him whenever they were upset, that could be easier…
“You’re better off without children any way. There’s no point to them.” Stiorra assured him.
“Have you forgotten that you yourself were a child not so long ago?” Finan asked. “And more of a handful to look after than the Lady Aelfwynn I’d imagine. God, the stories Uhtred’s told us of when you were little.”
“That’s different.” Stiorra picked up a branch from the side of the path and started aimlessly swinging it as they walked. All Finan could think was that it was only another implement for him to be hit with in the near future, and resolved to get Stiorra to drop it as soon as he could. He decided to move to the other side of the horse to put a barrier between them, just in case.
The village soon came into view as they made their way out of the woods, and Finan had to remind Stiorra to hide her wooden hammer pendent away.
“They won’t take kindly if they think you’re a Dane here.”
“I am a Dane.” She reminded him, thankfully tossing her stick aside into the bushes rather than hitting him with it. Nevertheless, she tucked the necklace away, and Finan could rest a bit easier.
The folk in the village seemed to recognise Stiorra, which made buying food and supplies much simpler. There was no news or gossip about Aethelred beyond that he was dying, so Finan figured they’d be staying at Saltwic for another few days at least, and therefore it was worth arranging for the local brewer to deliver a barrel of ale the next day. It was especially worth it when he remembered it was the Lady Aethelflaed’s money they were spending.
The journey back was slower, as the horse had clearly been enjoying not having anyone on its back, and didn’t take happily to being loaded with their goods. No less than three times it decided to run Finan off the path, and he began to wonder if somehow Stiorra had conspired with it against him. It was a relief when they returned back to Saltwic, and he could be free of the troublesome beast.
The children were unusually quiet when he entered the hall, and after a quick investigation the cause turned out to be Osferth patiently helping them with their letters. Young Uhtred was reading, and Sihtric was peacefully whittling what looked like a rather angry dog out of a chunk of wood.
“Is that another pagan charm you’re making there?” Finan sat down opposite him. “Is one of your gods an angry dog?”
“It’s a wolf. Just a wolf. For Aethelstan.” Sihtric turned it round for Finan too see better. It was certainly more dog than wolf, in Finan’s expert opinion, but it had an expressive face, he’d give Sihtric that.
“That’s a relief. He’s a good Christian lad, he doesn’t need you corrupting him.”
“Though Loki did have a son by a giantess who was a hideous wolf.” Sihtric told him with a smirk.
“The more I hear about your gods, the more I think I understand why all you Danes are madmen.” Finan said without malice.
“Perhaps.” Sihtric agreed, beginning to carve the tail of the dog. Wolf. Finan watched him work for a minute, but soon got bored.
“I was thinking,” he said slowly. “Of going to the river to wash.”
“You need it.” Sihtric replied, completely missing the point Finan was trying to make. Finan cast a quick look round to make sure none of the children were in earshot, then leaned in towards Sihtric, lowering his voice.
“I’m going to wash. Away from here. Where I’ll be naked. Very, very naked. And wet.”
That at least got the message across, and Sihtric’s knife slipped on the wood, almost cutting the tail of the wolf clean off.
“I’ll meet you down there.” Finan stood up, satisfied with himself, and dropped a kiss on Sihtric’s head before heading out to the river, relishing the way Osferth wearily shook his head at him.
It wasn’t unusual for one of them to grab the other whilst they were bathing. Things normally ended with them bringing each other to completion in the water, or momentarily retreating to land to get their mouths on each other. This time though, when Sihtric embraced him from behind, Finan felt a hand ever so lightly trace the cleft of his arse.
“I want to fuck you.” Sihtric murmured, his voice low. “Properly.” One finger dipped in to ghost over Finan’s hole, barely touching, and Finan’s body tried to both retreat and push back at the same time. He’d thought about it, of course he had, but in all honestly the prospect seemed more than a little terrifying. He wasn’t opposed to it, he just needed time.
“Why should I be the one getting fucked? I’m the older one here.” Finan asked.
“Because you’d look so pretty sitting on my cock.”
Finan couldn’t argue with that. He would look damn pretty on Sihtric’s cock.
“If you like, you can fuck me first. I’ll show you how it’s done.” Sihtric’s fingers moved from Finan’s arse to gently circle his nipple instead, before pinching it into hardness.
“There’s an idea.” Finan could get on board with that. If Sihtric was willing to be fucked first, how bad could it be?
“Go back to the hall. Find some oil, and something to bar the door with if you can. I’ll join when I’ve finished washing.” Sihtric nuzzled into the spot behind Finan’s ear, before taking his chin and twisting his head round to kiss him. It was a filthy kiss, full of promise, and if he didn’t have the prospect of taking Sihtric properly ahead of him Finan would have insisted they finished this now. As it was, he only just managed to tear himself away from Sihtric’s lips and swiftly struggled back into his clothes.
Not wanting to pass anyone, Finan decided to sneak into the hall through the kitchen window (they didn’t call him ‘the agile’ for nothing), pausing to pick up a jar of oil, then after a thought a couple of apples too. He was always hungry after a good hump. Sihtric clearly had the same idea of stealth as Finan when he returned, lightly rapping on their bedroom window to get Finan to open it so he could climb in.
Sihtric was still damp from his wash, his hair plastered to his forehead and his shirt clinging to him in a way that made it almost a shame to remove. But remove it Finan did, along with Sihtric’s trousers, and his own clothes. They fell into familiar movements of kissing, and stroking, and sucking until Finan was achingly hard and keening at every touch.
“Did you get the oil?” Sihtric asked breathlessly, pulling away.
Finan nodded, fumbling on the ground by the bed for where he’d put it, tossing it up to Sihtric.
“Ever been in a woman’s arse before?” Sihtric asked him, settling back on the pillows and carefully coating his fingers in oil. Finan mutely shook his head, watching as Sihtric hitched a leg up to let him reach down to his entrance. He had never seen such a captivating sight before, and absently stroked himself as he watched.
“It’s good.” Sihtric promised him, pressing a finger into himself before slowly beginning to thrust in and out.
“Will it be good for you too?” Finan asked, as Sihtric had winced with the addition of a second finger.
“It better be.” He replied with a crafty look at Finan. Whatever pain he had felt had clearly subsided, as after a moment he started fucking himself on his fingers with more speed, his breath coming out in small pants and his head falling back onto the pillow.
“Here, let me.” Finan coated his own fingers in oil and tentatively replaced Sihtric’s fingers with his, watching Sihtric’s face carefully for any discomfort as he pushed inside.
“I’m not going to break.” Sihtric reproached him, and Finan took that as his cue to speed up. At some point, he brushed against something that made Sihtric moan, and clench around him, and Finan tried to repeat whatever it was he had done. He soon hit his stride, working his way up to three fingers, and Sihtric writhed beneath him, canting his hips up to meet Finan’s thrusts. As wonderful as using his fingers on Sihtric was, Finan began to wonder when was enough preparation. His own cock was aching as he watched Sihtric fall apart. He was spared having to ask by Sihtric wordlessly removing Finan’s fingers, and sitting up only to push Finan down onto the bed.
Finan’s breath hitched as Sihtric used more oil to slick Finan’s cock, before positioning himself above Finan and slowly lowering down. Sihtric was tighter and warmer than Finan had ever imagined, and it took all of his self control not to grab hold of the other man’s hips and pull him down. It seemed to take an age, but eventually Sihtric bottomed out and sat flush with Finan. The sight of Sihtric above him, his eyes dark with want was too much for Finan, and he involuntarily thrust up into Sihtric’s heat. Jesus he felt amazing.
“You alright?” Finan asked, and Sihtric nodded.
“Keep up.” The Dane told him with a smirk, leaning forward ever so slightly to brace his hands on the headboard. Finan was about to make a snarky reply when Sihtric rolled his hips, and Finan lost his train of thought. The outside world became a blur, and all that mattered was Sihtric riding his cock like a man possessed. Sihtric seemed to sense when Finan was close to coming, for he slowed right down, moving languidly, that damn self-satisfied smirk on his face.
“Let’s change.” He said suddenly, getting off Finan completely and positioning himself on hands and knees in front of him. Without a second thought Finan knelt up and mounted Sihtric, grabbing his hips to better pull him in. The new position was somehow even better than before, and Finan tried desperately to keep a steady rhythm going. Unexpectedly Sihtric shifted, and Finan realised he was now only held up by one arm, as his other hand had disappeared beneath him to jerk himself off in time with Finan’s thrusts. The sight of it triggered Finan’s own orgasm, and he faltered in his movements, pushing deep into Sihtric one last time before collapsing, panting on the bed.
Sihtric gave him no time to recover, moving to hover over Finan as he furiously stroked his own cock, finally coming with a moan over Finan’s chest. He dropped down next to Finan, and they lay side by side as they caught their breath. Finan felt like he’d just run for miles, and was so ridiculously sweaty he was due another dip in the water.
“That was… incredible.” He eventually managed to get words out. Sihtric just laughed.
They lay there for a while until Finan finally disentangled himself to get up. He looked down at the mess on his chest in disgust.
“Next time we should do this by the river.”
At the least, Finan had got into the habit of keeping a basin of water and a washcloth in the bedroom, and quickly wiped himself down before throwing the cloth over to Sihtric. He pulled his trousers back on then flopped onto the bed, offering Sihtric an apple and taking one for himself.
“About to rot apples. My favourite.” Sihtric studied the apple suspiciously, but ate it anyway.
“Don’t ever say I don’t treat you right.” Finan ate his own apple happily, basking in the afterglow. He would gladly stay in this moment forever, if he could. Hang up his sword, and spend his days in bed with Sihtric, eating apples. And drinking ale, too, preferably. Tossing the apple core out of the window, Finan nestled into Sihtric and closed his eyes, peacefully dozing.
Unusually, it was Sihtric who first broke the silence.
“When we leave… when we return to Coccham. You should live with me.”
Finan’s heart skipped a beat. He opened his eyes and turned to look at Sihtric.
“Absolutely not. Your house is tiny. You’ll live with me.”
Finan was having an incredibly good day. The sun was shining, he’d been woken up by Sihtric’s mouth on him, and the ale from the village had been delivered. Even the children were remarkably well behaved, with Aelfwynn playing with her birds and Aethelstan working on his letters. Stiorra hadn’t even complained about being bored all day.
It was such a good day, that of course it had to be ruined by Stiorra’s shout that men were approaching. As quick as anything they were all alert, and Finan said a quick prayer of thanks that he’d decided to keep his sword so near. He only wished he hadn’t got complacent and stopped wearing his armour.
The children thankfully all came running, and Finan wracked his brains, trying to think how their small group could fend off fully armed men. Damnit, he’d got too used to having Uhtred around to solve his problems; he’d forgotten how to think.
It was Stiorra who saved them, in the end, and though it clearly didn’t sit will with Sihtric to hide instead of fight it was the only plausible means of survival. She really was her father’s daughter, Finan thought with no small amount of pride as she lied in the face of an armed man and got away with it. Uhtred too, was proud and relieved in equal measures when he arrived barely a minute after the men departed.
There was little time to talk as they collected their belongings and set forth for Ceaster, bundling the children into the cart along with whatever food they could grab. They travelled as fast as they reasonably could, but the distance they had to cover meant they still had to stop and make camp for the night. Aelfwynn was silently sobbing, and likely had been all journey, and no amount of cajoling from Sihtric or Osferth could lessen her tears. Aethelstan, however, was viewing the whole upheaval with a weary sort of acceptance. He clutched a book in one hand and his wooden wolf in the other, watching the men spread out furs and blankets with wide eyes. Finan gave his hair a ruffle to remind him they still cared.
“I’m cold.” Aelfwynn sniffed as they settled down for the night.
“Stiorra, share your bedroll with Aelfwynn. It will warm her up.” Uhtred said.
“I will not. Her crying annoys me.” Stiorra didn’t move.
“Stiorra!” Uhtred barked.
“The wee Lady can have my blanket, Lord.” Finan stepped in, trying to hide the smile at Uhtred’s familial antics. “I’ll share with Sihtric.”
“Won’t Sihtric mind?” Uhtred frowned.
“I am with Finan.” Sihtric intoned. Finan couldn’t help but laugh at the directness of his Dane.
“It’s true, Lord.” he finished tucking his blanket around Aelfwynn. She gave him a weak smile then curled up on herself, the occasional sob still making her whole body jolt.
“I leave you alone for a fortnight.” Uhtred groaned.
“Take me with you next time, please.” Osferth joined in. “Don’t leave me alone with them again.”
“Yes, please do, Lord. Take him away.” Finan agreed, curling up next Sihtric, who obligingly wrapped his arms tight around him. Sihtric was as warm as ever, making the loss of his blanket no great deal.
“You are forbidden from taking watch at the same time, understand?” Uhtred told them both. “I will not have men sneak up on us because you two are distracting each other.”
“A pity.” Sihtric whispered in Finan’s ear. Finan grinned, shifting about so he could use Sihtric’s arm as a pillow. An unexpected benefit of realising his feelings for the other man meant that nights on the road were set to become a lot more comfortable from now on. Although perhaps not for Sihtric.