“At seventeen, the bridge of dreams can reach across forever. . . . Secretly it had to be, though honest was our passion, and every moment in your arms made mockery of fashion.” - Dean Dyson and Matteo Saggese
“You know, Jack, if you persist in this idea of a profession, I won’t be friends with you anymore.”
Jack Seward laughed. “No, I don’t know, because that is utter rubbish. If I must earn my living, would you not prefer medicine to religion?”
“I would prefer you not work at all. You’re not suited to it. You’ll have a far better time adventuring with me.”
“But you forget I am of a serious nature.” Neither boy could hold back a laugh at that falsely sober statement. “I can’t afford it. I’m already going to be on scholarship next year. It’s set - done.”
“You aren’t that poor.”
“But I am. Some poor investments my father made have gone sour, lost us all my mother brought into the marriage in the first place. Scholarship it is - and scholarship it must be. No more adventuring.”
“What about adventuring on my shilling?”
“Absolutely out of the question. I have some pride. The fields of Kent are all I’ll see for a good many years.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I’ll make you a particular pet of my father.”
“I’m not meant for a pet. You of all people should know that. You’ll be a perfect gentleman one day, but me? The son of a parson? I wasn’t raised to idleness, no matter how badly you wish to teach it me. An occupation of some sort is a good thing.”
“An occupation does not have to be a money-grubbing profession.”
“I do not propose to sell myself to trade.” Jack was wide-eyed in shock. “Take that back this instant!”
“Perhaps I will. If you grant me one favour.”
“I am not disposed to grant you favours after you have insulted me. You must apologise.”
“Very well. I take it back,” Arthur replied insolently.
“Thank you. I suppose it will be different come autumn. We shall of necessity fall into different sets.”
“We don’t have to if I say we don’t.”
“Don’t be stupid, Arthur.”
“I’m not being stupid. Or maybe I am. What else is one on a warm spring day?”
“If you are about to launch into poetry, remember that Keats and Wordsworth would prefer the rain.”
“I’m not Keats,” Arthur spat in disgust.
“I never said you were,” Jack replied airily.
“Would you still be inclined to grant that favour?” Arthur stopped in the shadow of a tree.
“It must be serious.”
“I’m sorry.” Jack grabbed Arthur’s shoulder in a friendly gesture. “I’ll do whatever you like.”
Arthur started to speak, but instead he just managed to mumble incoherently whilst staring at his shoes.
“It is serious.” Worry lines creased Jack’s forehead. “Sit down here. I’ll do anything, you know that.” Seated together, under the tree, the warm spring breeze keeping his dark hair out of his face, he tried to examine his friend, but Arthur kept his face turned away.
Finally, Arthur managed to mumble something, again incoherent, but Jack thought he managed to catch the word “kiss”. Jack grabbed him by the chin and forced Arthur to face him. The boy’s face was pink with embarrassment. “I said I would do anything,“ Jack insisted, then he kissed Arthur quickly, lightly, on the lips.
Arthur pulled back so quickly he banged his head on the tree, bits of bark clinging to his light curls. “Good god, man.”
Jack began to redden as well. “I’m sorry. I thought - you said - I misheard.”
“Don’t apologise.” He rubbed furiously at back of his sore head. “I forget how well you read me.”
“I doubt that.”
“You shouldn’t do. I’m nothing if not honest.”
“So what was the favour?”
“A kiss, you fool! Can we please do it properly now that I am capable of asking for it?”
“I gave you a kiss. You seemed taken aback.”
“I was rather surprised you actually did it. And poorly, too, I might add.”
“Forgive me for not being a whore. Perhaps you should show me what it is you want me to do.”
“If that is how I must do it -” Arthur tackled him, and with Jack pinned to the ground, forced his tongue into Jack’s mouth. Jack’s lips curled around it for a moment, then he began to wrestle Arthur’s tongue with his own. “That was rather more what I had in mind,” Arthur stated when a need for air broke them apart.
“Why did you not do it sooner?”
Arthur started to pick the grass out of Jack’s dark hair. “I feared you would say no.”
“How could I do such a thing? It would hurt you.” The sun overhead made Arthur’s hair look like a golden halo - how could anyone wish to hurt such an ill-behaved angel? “Kiss me again.”
“Now you are the demanding one.” But Arthur complied, and when they broke apart again, Jack continued his ministrations, licking a path along Arthur’s jaw to the sensitive spot just below his ear. “Promise me you won’t go off into some boring set of students who take their education seriously,” Arthur insisted breathlessly.
“Do you mean to say you do not think you could get these attentions from another?”
“Hardly. Anyone with a title in the offing ought to oblige: the more things a man is ashamed of, the more respectable he is. What I mean is that I don’t want these attentions from another. Put that tongue back to work.”
“Yes, my lord,” Jack grinned.
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