The house had a living room and kitchen area, which was cozy but large enough for the purpose. A fire burned in the grate, giving the only light. In its light, everyone's faces seemed to glow with health and life. Richard imagined that even he might seem a true and virtuous son of the soil in such a light and company.
The two boys lounged on the sofa, nodding into sleep even as they took advantage of the chance to stay up late. Theresa and her daughter shared a great easy chair, and Sam sat on the floor at her feet. A strangely congruous pose in that he obviously loved his wife deeply in a way that Richard could perceive but barely understand. Richard and Wayne sat upon the bench seat that had been pulled inside for them. Wayne leaned back and rested his back against the high-stacked firewood.
Wayne and Sam had whiled the hours away in reminiscence; all stories of the things a band of wild brothers do, growing up on a remote farm. Richard could not help but compare it to his own stifled childhood in lonely rooms and callous private schools. He felt an irrational rage that whilst he had been wasting so many of the apparently few years of his life, these men had been riding horses, hunting, ranging, playing, fighting, and living. As if it were somehow their fault that he had suffered from the blight of urban privilege upon the proper place a child should have in a world that still had some nature in it.
At last Theresa rose and rested her hand on the head of her youngest son, now fully surrendered to sleep.
“We'd best get these two to bed, and you, too, Mary …”
The girl scowled but made no protest as she helped her mother bundle the two boys off to their beds. Sam watched them go with a fond smile.
“We've just the one bed for guests, but I don't reckon you'll mind,” Sam said.
There was a knowing edge to his voice that made Richard look at him sharply. It was not an accusation -- an acknowledgement perhaps, and the last thing Richard would have expected from a man so upright as Samuel Sneddon.
Wayne merely smiled as Sam showed them through to a small, clean room with a wide box-bed and a high, narrow window. He set a smoky candle on the mantle and left them alone with conspicuous alacrity.
“He knows,” Richard said quietly.
“Oh, aye. He knows. We grew up together, and I've always been what I am.”
Richard shook his head, quite unable to understand how simple things seemed to be for Wayne. No doubt he was at least as bemused in return, or more so, by the way Richard twisted himself in knots and achieved only unhappiness as a result.
Wayne stripped off his clothes, but, perhaps for the first time, he did not seem entirely at ease. Richard kicked off his boots and wondered what the hell was about to happen.
“Best not waste the candle,” Wayne said as he pinched it out.
Richard stood frozen in the perfect darkness. He heard the soft creak as Wayne got onto the long-promised bed.
“Come here,” Wayne said.
Richard reached forth tentatively and found the edge of the bed. He set one knee on its low surface. Wayne's hand, groping in the darkness, found Richard's shoulder. It moved slowly to his back and drew him forward. In the darkness, Richard knelt on the soft bed and listened to his own heart beating, and Wayne's breath.
Wayne's hands were slow and deft, unbuttoning Richard's shirt and smoothing back the cloth so that it fell from his shoulders and slipped down toward the floor. Richard closed his eyes. He reached forward and fitted his hands around Wayne's waist, the skin warm and surprisingly soft beneath his fingertips. He could feel Wayne's breath upon his face.
“Not kissed a man, eh?” Wayne said.
Richard's voice seemed a little nervous even to his own ears. Wayne cupped Richard's face gently.
It was probably the hardest thing Richard had ever done, but he drew back. “No, Wayne. The illness. You shouldn't breathe in the air that I …”
“Shh, we'll talk about that another time.”
Wayne's hands moved slowly down Richard's neck. His lips settled upon Richard's throat, trailing kisses down to his shoulder. Richard leaned in, then pulled Wayne toward him, splaying his fingers across broad shoulders. Doubt was slipping away as he heard Wayne's breathing become rapid and harsh.
Wayne fumbled with Richard's belt and the metal buttons of his trousers. He broke away from their embrace and laid Richard back onto the mattress. There was a strange lack of urgency in their movements, as if the moment was to be savored, not rushed toward its conclusion.
Wayne stripped Richard's clothing from him slowly. His hands lingered briefly here and there. His fingers traced one hipbone, thigh, and shoulder. He straddled Richard's thighs and bent over him. Richard was conscious of the rough stubble on his chin rasping against Wayne's fingers. He was even more aware of the death in his right lung, which might leap from his lips to Wayne's if given the chance.
He wondered how his own thin and scruffy form could be of interest to Wayne, no matter how welcome such attention and deft caresses were. He knew the better thing would be to push Wayne away lest he doom his lover in more ways than one.
Richard lay at ease on his back as Wayne's mouth pressed down upon his brow. Richard's left hand lay lax atop the covers while his right reached up and twined itself in Wayne's silky hair. It felt as he had always imagined it would -- soft as goose-down.
Wayne leaned back so that a palm's width separated their faces in the close darkness.
“I cannot imagine that I was worth the wait,” Richard said softly. He could hear the long-banished Boston lilt edging its way back into his diction.
Wayne exhaled with a long, sad sigh. “Sometimes, Rick,” he said. “Sometimes …”
Wayne's hard cock lay against his thigh. Richard felt a deep pang of desire run down his body and resound in his groin. His back arched as sweet tension ran down his body. He parted his legs, and Wayne moved to kneel between them. Richard placed his hands on Wayne's waist and made his invitation clear.