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Two men, together. Unclothed in the darkness.

The wind howls and rattles at the windowpanes. Rain drives against the tiles. In the single room of his lodgings, the fire burns low.

“Is it a sin?”

Careful hands lead careful fingers tracing patterns over a bare shoulder. This is the first time they have done this.

“I don’t know, I’m no priest.”

“The Bible says it is a sin, but at school we studied the classics and the Greeks did not think so.”

“I was never much of a scholar.”

“Nor was I, but I liked the stories. Achilles, and Patroclus.”

The wandering hand is caught, held, each finger kissed. It is safe to be tender here.

“Well I do not wish to be Patroclus. Nor do I wish to be Achilles. They came to a sad end, William.”

“They were soldiers, though. Perhaps that’s what happens to men like that. To men like us.”

“Don’t!” A kiss to stop the words. “Don’t.” A kiss on the forehead, a blessing. “Don’t think things like that. I don’t believe that was the moral of their story. They were heroes. How can it be a sin, to do this? How can it be a sin to love you?”

Brown eyes are warm in the firelight. The urge to hold, to cling, close and soft and secret, is too strong to ignore.

“Perhaps we are only meant to love… chastely. To want, but not to touch.”

“Then why give us bodies? Why give us desire? Do you want me to stop?”

He pulls away, retreating.

“No!” His arms are full again. “I don’t want to stop. I never want to stop. I love you.”

He is pinned, trapped by a weight he could move with ease but does not choose to. They shelter for a moment beneath the blankets, cocooned against the storm outside. They were carefree before, lost in happiness. He doesn’t understand why now, with the darkening sky there are darker thoughts intruding. He waits, half hoping to hear, half hoping it will pass of its own accord.

“I had not…. not… with another person. My friends took me to a house once, where you could, could hire a woman for the evening. Only I… I couldn’t. I never could.”

“Oh William.”

He half whispers it into the soft brown hair tucked beneath his chin.

“So, if this is a sin, it is the only thing I am capable of.”

He tries, with hands and kisses, to smooth over the hurt. Is love ever enough to do such a thing?

“But you can love me? Whatever happened before, you were not unwilling and you love me?”

“Yes. You know that.”

“Then I do not think it is a sin at all.”