He'd used gold to outline the scales on the back of the whale, because the whale was a creature of God and therefore glorious, although under Jared's hand the creature's maw was the size of the great church door and the teeth cinnabar red. He'd given it a grin as wicked as Pangur Ban's yawn, and on the lolling curve of the forked tongue set his Jonah, robes outlined in red but only the lamp-black of the figure's boots and hair colored. The robe would be walnut-skin brown, as befitted a penitent, but the colors unrolling under the trail of his brush were the verdigris greens and woad blues of the ocean. He'd drawn it vivid and glorious as a winter storm.
Tongue between his teeth, head bent, hand cramping on the brush, so concentrated that the day of Revelation could have come and gone without him noticing, Jared worked. On and on he painted, past the bells for Prime, beyond the reading of Psalms, through Recreation, and around him the light from the cloisters settled gold and still into the afternoon. On the corner of the desk, Pangur Ban snoozed and dreamed, and under it Jared's knees cramped and his feet sweated in the rough sandals, but Jared painted on. Low and soothing, the sound of the sea echoed in his ears and gained color under his fingers. Louder and louder the sea sounded, and a stray salt-scented breeze plucked at his hair.
Never before had he heard the sea from his desk. Never before had the wind crept through the shutters.
Hand stilled, shoulders hunched, Jared froze. He could hear the sound of Pangur Ban, purring. He could smell salt, and sweat, and something rich and harsh beyond both he did not recognize.
He was being watched.
He looked up. Slowly, under his eyelashes.
From the other side of the desk, a Viking grinned back at him.
Shock drove Jared to his feet, knocked his thighs off the desk and flung him willy-nilly hard back down. The brush dropped, the pigment scattered, he couldn't breathe for the fear stopped in his throat, and silent and wicked as any painted devil, the Viking watched back with amused, intimate eyes.
If the alarm bell had rung, Jared hadn't heard. If Pangur Ban had hissed, he'd ignored her. Instead, the monastery was eerily silent and his own cat lay belly up and paws curled soft under the Viking's caressing hand, purring.
It was a broad and capable hand. Dirty, wrapped with fraying strips of linen, the nails bitten short. A thief's, a murderer's, an ungodly, pagan hand. Jared looked at it for a moment, afraid to look anywhere else, fear sharpening his sight and shivering through his belly. Then he thought of the book. Six years of Jared's life, dedicated to the glory of God's written word. Unmindful of the wet paint, Jared grabbed for it, protective, terrified, and the Viking grabbed it back.
Jared gasped. But the Viking didn't snatch the book and run. Instead, he smoothed the pages back open, thumbing the crumpled corner flat with gentle fingers, and eyes on Jared's, he blew softly at the gleaming wet paint of the sea. And growled. It was a quiet growl, more of a tsk tsk than a threat, but shame scalded through Jared's face at the sound. He should have known better. The paint was wet. He'd risked six years work, careless and afraid.
Head cocked on one side, the Viking blew again at the wet paint. His eyes were the color of the sea, looking at Jared, his hair hacked short, his face as wickedly handsome as a witch's must be, his mouth - his mouth was pursed, soft and shell pink and sickeningly fascinating. He wore furs, Jared's Viking, bulky and rough, and slung over his back a cruciform hilted sword. Dirt and salt stains splattered his tunic and the cloth around his hands, and the leather strapping on his sword hilt was sweat stained and worn.
When he straightened, Jared expected to see the sweep of the blade. He'd know the face of God sooner than he expected. He hoped death came swiftly. He hoped someone would care for Pangur Ban.
Deliberate as a priest at the altar, the Viking reached out to the stack of ground pigments in their sheep bladders and begun to knot them closed. His fingers were deft and sure on the leather, and his teeth sunk into his bottom lip, concentrating.
Jared could barely breathe. He couldn't understand what was happening. What use would a Viking raider have for yellow madder, or the indigo blue it had taken him a summer to distil? But, slowly, one by one, Jared's paints disappeared into the Viking's satchel. Gold glinted there too, and a confusion of crackled glass that could only have come from the stained glass panels in the apse window, but it was the paints Jared grieved over. The tools of his life's work were so carefully, gently, stolen. He couldn't move. Fear held him frozen to his stool, barely breathing, while the Viking rinsed the brush and rolled it in the lambskin wrap. Along with six brushes, Jared's precious steel paring knife, a tuft of badger fur and four swan feathers - Jared sighed, when the wrap disappeared. At that, head cocked, the Viking looked back at him. Not angry. Curious. And curiously intimate, as if he already knew Jared, as if watching had earned him rights Jared would never have freely given.
" - That's - " Jared said, terrified, furious. "Mine?"
The Viking smiled, and reached for the book.
"No!" Jared said. "No - the paint's - " He pointed urgently. Mixed with egg white, not water, the paint still glistened. "Wait, wait - " He reached for the box. His hands shook when he sprinkled sand over the vellum, but the Viking did not stop him. Watched, instead, the sand absorbing liquid, until at last Jared could blow it away and leave the page clean and dry.
Nodding, the Viking reached out. Closed the book, his hands lingering on the calfskin binding. Slid it off the desk and into his satchel. Then he took the sand box, too. And, wiped clean on the sleeve of his tunic, the mixing slab. Then he reached for Pangur Ban, and Jared cracked.
He said, "No." He stood up, and reached out for his cat. "No. She's mine," Jared said to that wicked, amused face, and swung Pangur Ban into his arms and held her tight. It wasn't Pangur Ban's favorite game. She yowled and scratched and Jared clung tighter. "Take everything else," Jared said, and realized he was walking backwards and the Viking was walking forwards, stalking, intent. "Take the book. I don't care. Just - " his back slammed against the scriptorium wall. Nowhere left to go, and the Viking was still walking forwards.
Jared closed his hands around Pangur Ban as protectively as he could, and stared back.
"Take everything else, you thief," he hissed. "You're not having her, you hear? She's mine."
So close Jared could see the gold flecks in his eyes and the freckles on his nose, Jared's Viking, smiling, reached out a hand, stroked Pangur Ban's ears, and prodded Jared's own shoulder. Ten years of hewing wood and tending crops in a community of whom Jared was the youngest by decades had given him solid muscles and calloused hands, scarred forearms and strong thighs. Every inch of him, Jared's Viking looked at, his untonsured hair, his mouth, his paint splattered fingers. His rough woven robe, the twisted rope at his waist, his carefully mended sandals. No one, ever, looked at Jared so closely, as if he was interesting. As if Jared mattered.
When the Viking's hand dropped Jared braced himself for the killing blow. But instead, sudden and assured, as if he knew Jared's body better than Jared himself, the Viking cupped his hand over Jared's balls. It was utterly deliberate. His fingers, terrifyingly intimate, measured the weight and shape of them under Jared's robe, and his palm pressed hard and hot over Jared's cock. As if he was measuring, checking, assessing. He did not look away, and Jared could not.
Instead, he squeaked. High and sharp as a mouse under Pangur Ban's claws, shamingly weak, because he'd never, no one, it was sinful and forbidden and, O Christ, he was, he was hardening under that hand -
Jared's fist slammed so hard into the Viking's upflung palm that both of them rocked with the force of it. He yelped, the Viking hissed, and as Jared stared down horrified at his own violence unleashed the Viking nodded once and snatched him by the sleeve of his robe. Tugged. Said something guttural and imperative and pulled Jared with him across the scriptorium, out the door, and along the cloisters. Through the close gate and out into the yard and, half-running, along the path to the harbor. Stumbling in his sandals, not daring to let go of Pangur Ban, Jared perforce followed. Through the water meadow, over the sea wall, down onto the pebble beach. And there, alien and terrifying, harbinger of violence, bringer of fire and taker of souls, a long ship lay beached.
The Viking did not stop. He dragged Jared onwards, terrified, too frightened even to marvel at the snarling dragon's head of the thing or the milling, giant warriors, and flung him up against the wooden side of the ship. "Ey up," he said gesturing, and Jared stared at him in disbelief, because surely, he couldn't mean Jared to get on the ship.
But he did. His hands were pushing at Jared's legs, hoisting, and hands reached down from the boat and fastened painfully under his armpits and pulled him, legs wind-milling, into the boat. As he tipped over the edge the Viking yelled something that must have been, "Watch out for the cat!" because Pangur Ban as well as Jared met both rough laughter and helping hands. Rolled into the belly of the boat, robe tangled, fur ruffled, panting and shocked, they lay on the boards of the deck and blinked dazedly up at the sky.
In a moment, booted feet thudded down beside them, and staring down, Jared's Viking raised an interrogative eyebrow just as if he was saying, "Alright?"
Shocked speechless, Jared nodded, clinging to Pangur Ban. The Viking grinned back, stowed his satchel at the side of the boat and tugged Jared to sit alongside. There Jared stayed, back against the rough wooden planks, blinking at the line of sea chests and the waiting, poised oars, at the height of the mast over his head and the terrifying Vikings and, on the prow of the boat, the gilded, painted dragon's head bigger than he was tall. Around him men shouted in a strange language, flung bundles abroad, heaved at ropes, ran backwards and forwards along the deck, laughed, and none of them spared more than a curious glance for Jared. Under him the boat heaved and shuddered, the keel grating over stone, and then suddenly rolled like a live creature. It was the sea, taking hold of the boat, and more men, hundreds of them, flooded over the sides and down to the oars and rowed as if their lives depended on how fast they could force the ship through the water. Even Jared's Viking. swearing and sweating at his oar, was watching not him but the shoreline. There were muffled shouts. Then, finally, hooves, and the sound of a war horn.
The thane had arrived. But it was too late for Jared and Pangur Ban. They'd been kidnapped, stolen, taken for slaves off the shore like any careless goatherd.
Shocked at last into thought, Jared wondered, despairing, when the iron collar would be riveted around his neck. How long it would be, until he was sold. Even, sickeningly, how much he was worth. One lanky scribe and his battered cat. Pangur Ban, at least, could mouse for her living. Jared had nothing to offer but the strength of his hands. He couldn't imagine a place for a scribe on a Viking housestead: it'd be the goats for him for the rest of his life.
Then the sail came down like a clap of thunder, and the long ship - she, this boat, so far from the fishing coracles the comparison was laughable - flung herself forward like a living creature. Sail belled with wind and straining at the ropes, even the sound of her was different, the thrum of the taut cloth and the creak of the wood and the slap of the waves. For a moment, the Vikings were silent, and then as they heaved in the oars there was a shout of relief and triumph that made Jared wince. Water splattered over his face, Pangur Ban sunk all twenty claws in his chest in protest, and Jared's Viking shipped his oar and looked down
Jared's new owner. The Viking who owned him.
The Viking who was shoving the chest back, bending down, and peering at Jared's face, while Jared hunched back against the planks and Pangur Ban scrabbled for freedom. Jared knew how she felt, but pride kept his eyes up and his fear throttled.
"Hugga?" the Viking said, gently, softly, and Jared looked at him bemused, frowning.
"I don't understand," he choked out.
The Viking crouched lower. "Reidan?" he said. "Hroeddr?" He reached out a hand to Jared's, clenched in Pangur Ban's fur. His fingers were strong, as calloused as Jared's, but he didn't try and break Jared's grip. His thumb stroked Jared's skin as Jared himself would soothe a frightened animal, and his eyes were honest and ... kind. "Nafn Jensen," he said. He pointed at his chest. "Ek Jensen. Pu?" And raised an eyebrow.
"Jared," Jared said. He looked down at Pangur Ban, and said her name too, as if the Viking would care. But the grin that came back at him was soft and relieved.
"Jared," Jensen said, rolling the sound of it on his tongue. "Jared. Pangur Ban." Then he nodded. "Gylltan," he said, still smiling, and cuffed Jared very gently over the head. "Standa."
That at least Jared understood. Shakily he uncurled himself and stood, feet braced against the roll and sway of the deck, and Jensen pulled him forwards with a steadying hand. Too focused on his uneasy footing, Jared could not spare even one eye for the watching, chuckling Vikings, but when the ship pitched unexpectedly it was not just Jensen holding him steady but other fleeting, friendly hands. "Thank you," he said, surprised, and the other Viking clapped him on the shoulder and and said something to Jensen that made him smile.
They made it along the deck. It was to the prow of the boat that Jensen led him, to the sea, and there Jared could stand and look. Above him the dragon's head towered gorgeous in sunshine, freshly painted, the gild on it leaf and not just paint. The waves were gentle and as blue as the sky, and the sun glimmered from the water and warmed his skin. Salt spray plumed up from the long boat's bows and misted Jared's face, nothing he'd ever seen before, and he tasted it on his tongue, curious and entranced. Beside him, Jensen leaned over the side. "Vikinga," he said, with deep content. His arm, circling, encompassed the straining raven's head sail, the curve of the waves, the lines of the ship and the men on her. "Vikinga," he said again, and Jared nodded. He felt... here, now, he felt suddenly free, as if he too was the kind of man who set sail on the ocean, laughing.
"It's beautiful," he said, wondering, and Jensen smiled back at him as if he understood.
As the sun set, the Vikings gathered in the belly of the boat. All thirty of them, a small war band, and less terrifying once Jared had names for half of them and nicknames for the rest - Hrolgr and Ifar and Cormac, Red Beard and Scar and Likes Cats. There was a fire, carefully guarded, and Jensen handed him fish stew in a wooden bowl and a spoon to eat it with. There was bread to go with it - "braud" - and a sharp ewe's milk cheese - "ost". The bread was nearly fresh and the cheese better than anything the monastery could produce, and when Jared had eaten his share Jensen had looked him up and down and refilled his bowl. He wasn't going to starve, then, although the thane's thralls had never looked as content as Jared felt. Belly full, warm under Jensen's furs, accustomed to the roll of the ship and delighted by the sheer, stunning beauty of the sea, Jared felt more adventurous than enslaved. If this was slavery, it had left Jared feeling freer than he'd ever felt in his life before.
"Takk fyrir," he said to Jensen, softly, and Jensen knocked his shoulder against Jared's in reply. Dropped a hand over his neck, and pulled him nearer. Jensen was comfortable to lean against, warm muscled and strong, and Jared let himself curl close, his and Jensen's hands touching on Pangur Ban's fur. Over his head Jensen was talking, quick and amused, a banter that circled around the Vikings and exploded in good natured laughter every so often. It was so very different from the quiet of the monastery. On the ship, men spoke when they wanted to, laughed, chattered, sung. In the monastery, Jared had felt hemmed in by the quiet, throttled by it: here he felt no one would mind if he talked all day. He almost had. Jared had pointed and asked and demanded, and Jensen had given him back word after word, new and shining.
"Leman," was a new word, and it was unexpectedly sharp and flung at both of them. Beside Jared, Jensen stiffened at the sound of it, and when Jared looked up one of the men across the fire was staring at both of them. His hands shaped a rounded 'W' in the air, the size of a boy's chest. When the man spoke again, there was a question in his voice, and it was meant for Jensen. Although there had been knowing laughter, the other Vikings were sobering, turning around, and Jared could feel Jensen sigh. He could not understand the question, and for a moment Jensen's hand tightened on his.
Then he let go, and as he made a short and sardonic comment that sent the circle of men tumbling into guffaws, his hands described something the length and width of a small salmon. Even the man who had asked the question was laughing. Whatever Jensen had said, it was the right words. Someone, still grinning, passed Jared an aleskin, a small sweet apple from last year's harvest, more bread - more food than he'd have eaten in three days in the refectory. He smiled his thanks back, sleepy and happy under the weight of Jensen's arm, and felt oddly welcome.
He'd have happily slept where he was. But after sunset, just about the time when the bells would have been tolling for the end of Vespers, Jensen rolled him up in the furs and tucked him up next to the satchel where his book rested wrapped in waterproofed leather, gave him a rolled tunic for his pillow and Pangur Ban to keep his feet warm.
Jared should have been scared witless.
He was happier than he'd ever been in his life before.
It was the cold that woke him, when Jensen slid into the furs. The cold, and then Jensen's fingers, colder still, burrowing under Jared's rucked up robe to warm themselves on his belly. Half asleep, he wriggled, yelped, and Jensen whispered hot and damp in his ear, "hriska." Quiet. Jensen's hands were stealthy, invading, and Jensen's weight warm and solid at his back was far more familiar than half a day's acquaintance should make him. Jared's Viking smelled of beer and the sea, and when he whispered "belgr," and tapped his fingers on Jared's stomach, unseen, Jared knew he was smiling. The hands moved, and Jared shivered. He wasn't cold. It was the way Jensen touched him, soft and confident and reverent, as Jared had never been touched before.
"Mojolsm," Jensen whispered, and his hands bracketed Jared's hips. Jared shivered again, didn't know if he wanted to push back into Jensen's body or up into the grip of his hands, restless and hungry in a way that was utterly new. He didn't understand what his body wanted. He'd never felt like this before, confused and itching. Then Jensen grinned into his shoulder and said, "bqll," with an anticipatory relish. His hands slid down, tangling with the hair on Jared's belly, lower, lower, and - oh God, Jared thought, helplessly, witlessly hardening again - cupped Jared's cock and balls just as he'd done in the scriptorium. There was no cloth between his skin and Jared's, this time. Nothing to stop the slow, reckless slide of Jensen's hands, touching Jared where Jared himself had never dared, transgressing minor sins and heading straight to damnation. One hand rolled his balls, softly, gently, and the other closed around Jared's cock.
"Oh God," Jared moaned helplessly, tempted into such sweet pleasure even the thought of prayer had fled, and Jensen bit his shoulder.
"Hriska," he whispered again, even as Jared gasped and someone else sniggered from the far side of the boat. But Jensen was amused, not irritated, and his fingers were still stroking Jared's flesh, pulling and tugging, his thumb an unbearable, miraculous pressure behind Jared's balls.
Jared had no words. There could be no words for this, the drugging pleasure Jensen's hands were giving him, the urge to roll back into Jensen's skin and spread his legs, the weight of his own excitement rolling in his belly. No confession could expunge the feel of Jensen's teeth on his skin, bright sparks of pain that only fed the heat between them. No priest had ever warned that he would arch his head back into Jensen's touch, buck his hips into the pull of another man's hand, squirm and wriggle and pant helplessly as a fish on a baited line, beg wordlessly and not know for what he begged.
Jensen knew. Jensen was smiling still into his neck, his hands moving faster, rougher, tugging at Jared's balls and then - Christ in heaven - moving further. Pressing against Jared's ass in a shock of filthy pleasure that made Jared bite his lip bloody to stifle the scream. He was... Christ, he was falling apart with pleasure, broken open, owned and forced and sinning and Oh God.
He did scream then, when he spent, Jensen's fingers in his ass and milking his cock, Jensen laughing at him, not letting up until Jared had surrendered every ounce of what strength he had left. Hot and wet on his belly, his own seed mocked him, evidence of a sin he had sworn never to commit, but Jensen dabbled and stroked his fingers through the mess of it as if Jared had pleased him. As if, pagan that he was, Jensen's gods smiled on such pleasure and allowed it.
They laughed at him, in the morning. "Oh, Jensen," Hrolgr whimpered, one hand pressed to his forehead and the other pressed over his own cock, his hips rocking as he grinned. "Oh, Jensen!"
Jared was mortified. He'd never felt so embarrassed. The whole ship must have heard them, last night, if not the first time then the second, when Jensen had actually been on top of him and Jared hadn't been able to muffle his voice. "Oh, Jensen... " Hrolgr groaned, and Jared took a quick look at the sea. Drowning was looking more and more attractive.
Jensen said something smug and pleased, and then Rolf slapped him on the shoulder, moaned with some force, and said, "Oh, Jared!"
Jared's Viking could blush. Jared's Viking could go as pink as if he was sunburned, swallow, not know where to look, sweet as a peony in sunshine. The sight of him sent a flush of warmth through Jared's own skin, pride and delight and then, as Jensen looked at him, equally helpless, equally embarrassed.... companionship.
They were in this together, then.
That was the day Jared learned eight different knots and the first three verses - all anyone could remember - of a saga about sea monsters and islands. That was the day Pangur Ban learned that Norwegian sea mice were just as tasty as their Anglian brethren, and that Jensen's shoulders would carry her weight almost as well as Jared's.
That was the night Jensen tumbled Jared over in the furs and put his mouth where his fingers had been. He'd stopped Jared's mouth with his hand before he even started.
On the second morning, Jared woke with his head pillowed on Jensen's shoulder, so naturally it felt as if they'd been sleeping together for years, and Pangur Ban dancing on his belly. Beside him, propped against the side of the ship, Jensen was holding a piece of glass to the sun. It was red glass, lead-rimmed and blood-bright, and it had been, once, a king's gift to the monastery. Jared blinked up at it, puzzled, and Jensen pointed down to where Pangur Ban was chasing crimson patches of sunlight over the furs. Scattered under Jensen's elbow, safe from her paws, there were other pieces - copper greens, vermilion, purple, reds and oranges and yellows and golds. In Jensen's hands, held gently as he turned them in the light, every one became an individual thing of beauty. He was as enthralled with the colors as Jared's cat, just as he'd stared at the pictures in the book, and for the first time Jared wondered if... if Jensen would keep him. If he'd let Jared finish the book. If that was why Jensen had taken the pigments and the brushes and Jared himself.
Then someone shouted, and Jensen pushed the satchel and the glass to Jared and stood up naked as the day he was born to stare over the side of the ship. Hastily wrapping, finding his robe crumbled near his feet and dragging it on, catching hold of Pangur Ban just in case, Jared missed the lighting of the signal fires and the first shouts from shore, but by the time he was dressed and standing the sail was already reefed and the sea-chests pulled into place. They rowed into the harbor, slowly, because Jared had never handled an oar before and Wulfgar, counting beats, kept stopping to laugh as the thing bucked like a stubborn ass in his hands. By the time they pulled up at the jetty Jared's hands were sore, but not blistered, and inspecting Jensen grunted with pleased satisfaction. Then he picked up the satchel, checked Jared had Pangur Ban, and took one end of the sea chest and pointed at the other, which at least gave Jared something to do as he stumbled his way, head down, through the curious crowd. He didn't catch most of the words, for which he was thankful, although Jensen seemed to give as good as he got and when Jared did manage to glance up the smiles looked friendly. More friendly, more interested, than he expected. And the houses looked just like the houses of the villages at home, and the cows were black-coated and familiar, and even the hens looked the same for all they laid Norwegian eggs.
Maybe it wouldn't be so bad, living here. If he was staying. If Jensen wasn't planning to sell him off sometime soon.
Then someone screamed, and Jensen dropped his end of the chest and said something harsh under his breath. By the time Jared had set his end carefully down, Jensen was being assaulted by a small, round woman with flying, red-tinged braids and a ladle waving dangerously near Jensen's ears, although Jensen seemed to have her pinned with her feet off the ground. He was smiling, although she was talking so fast and so emphatically Jared did not understand a word she said. It seemed to be accusatory.
"Modir - " Jensen said helplessly, and glanced at Jared, which was a mistake. The woman whipped around, blinked, stared, and began to grin. It was Jensen's grin, crinkle eyed and broad, and it was then that Jared realized this must be Jensen's mother.
"Víst er hann vasklegur maour," she said, loudly, and for the second time Jared saw Jensen blush, although he didn't understand the words. Hann, boy, vask, brave -
Then the woman cackled gleefully. "Eh, boy," she said, and Jared startled all over with the shock of it because she was speaking words he could understand. "Tell me he fed you at least. What's your name? Where did he take you from, the lout? You must be exhausted! Jensen, did you have to - " and she lapsed into a flood of Norse, pointing angrily at the chest and then at Jared. Jensen seemed to be trying to explain. He wasn't getting a word in edgeways. Finally he just shrugged, picked up the chest and held it apologetically, and his mother whirled back to Jared.
"What did you say your name was?"
"Jared," Jared managed.
"That's a strong name. Good," Jensen's mother said. Then she said. "I'm so glad you're not Brigitte. We'll have the wedding in spring, when the priest is here. How are you with cows?"
Cows, he could handle. "I can make cheese," Jared offered. "And herd goats. I'm good with goats. She's a good mouser - "
Jensen said, loudly, "Ek skrifari," and his mother gasped.
"Goats?" she said. "Goats? And you can write? Oh my boy," she said, and hugged him. Cat, ladle and all.
It turned out he'd got himself married. Hand fasted. He was Jensen's shield prize, the bride of his spear, which his mother explained in a great number of words while feeding him honey cakes and clucking over his clothes and shouting at Jensen who sat, amused and silent, with one hand on Jared's knee under the boards of the trestle. He wasn't a slave at all. He seemed to have several slaves himself, although they all looked happy and plump and answered Jensen's mother back with more courage than Jared could manage, which boded well. Also, several cows, a good copper cauldron, a mother in law, a sister in law (married) three swords he didn't know how to use (although Jensen promised to teach him) and a bed with Jensen in it.
The second time he woke up, only a little sore, because Jensen had been generous with both fingers and goose grease, it was to the sound of swearing. The room was unexpectedly light, the shutters that had been closed last night flung open, and under the glassed-in window where there had been nothing the night before there was a stool and a trestle and Jensen trying to measure angles with a plank of wood in one hand. He wasn't doing well. Scrabbling out of bed to lend a hand, Jared suddenly realized just what he was seeing.
It was a desk. Simpler, half-built, but a desk just like the one he'd used for six years of his life, in the monastery. A desk put under the window, where he could see to work. His own desk.
Jared gasped, speechless.
Looking up, Jensen let the plank of wood slip to the floor. He was smiling, just a little, shyly, and when Jared hugged him even the tips of his ears were pink. "Jensen," Jared said helplessly, warm to his very soul with the kindness of it. "Jensen."
said softly, "Hugr," his palm pressed against Jared's heart.
Then he tugged Jared's hand up to cover his own. "Elskandi,"
he said, soft and earnest. He swallowed. Sunlight gilded the green of
his eyes. "Oftar en nú, svarra," he said, every syllable
a promise, and Jared bent down and kissed the words from his mouth.
Jared finishes his book. Then he starts on sagas. Pangur Ban lives long and well.
en nú, svarra" is actually Icelandic. There seems to be
a shortage of Old Norse love poetry. It means, "Both now and for
aye to endure," and it's from Cormac's Saga.