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"This is our last stand," Cuthbert murmurs, and for once there is no laughter in his voice.

Roland's hand pauses on the gun he's cleaning, but he says nothing; there is nothing to say now, and that is the truth.

"Roland, I love thee."

The gunslinger's heart tightens. It is the first time he has heard those words since Mejis. Since Susan. "Aye," he replies, just as soft, "and I love thee well, Cuthbert Allgood."

He is not surprised at the touch of Cuthbert's lips on his. The night is hot and still, and there is nowhere left to turn for comfort. Roland lays aside his guns and tangles his hands in the dark fall of Cuthbert's hair.

Their lips are dry and cracked, caked with the dust of this godforsaken place. Cuthbert bears him down to the cold rock of the cavern floor and pins him there, grinning. He was always the better wrestler, and Roland the better shot. They have complemented each other from the beginning.

And now it is the end, and only they remain. Cuthbert sits back to strip off his shirt and then, teasing, begins to open the buttons of Roland's workshirt. Each shift of his body brings their cocks together through the worn denim of their jeans, aching. Impatient, Roland shoves Cuthbert's hand away and makes quick work of the remaining buttons, tossing the shirt aside in the darkness.

Cuthbert kisses his way down Roland's bare chest, his hands unfastening the fly of his jeans. Roland hisses as Cuthbert frees his cock to the cool air of the cavern.

He would have taken Roland into his mouth then, but Roland's hand cups the back of Cuthbert's head, strangely gentle, pulling him up so that Roland can kiss him, with lips and teeth and dancing tongues. With his other hand he reaches down between them, palms Cuthbert through his jeans.

Cuthbert pushes his hand away just long enough to open his own jeans, the button sliding easily through the loop. He shoves at the fabric, sliding it down far enough so that he can lie against Roland and let Roland wrap his hand around them both.

Though Cuthbert might have him pinned, it is Roland who has control, his long, rough fingers stroking hard as Cuthbert keens above him. Their muscles are tense, their nerves frayed with too much waiting, too much fear. It won't take long.

"Come for me," Roland whispers. "Come commala, Cuthbert."

Cuthbert draws in a harsh breath and holds it

holds it

as his hips buck against Roland, his cock sliding through Roland's fist.

"Roland," he breathes, coming hard between them. His spine arches, and then he slumps forward, catching himself on his hands and pressing another kiss to Roland's dry lips. "Come with me," he says, still shaking. He shifts his weight, wraps his own hand around Roland's and strokes with him until Roland cries out wordlessly, his whole body shuddering as he spends himself in their joined hands.

And in that lingering moment he swears he can feel the Tower itself crumbling to the earth.